It’s the Math Mistakes 3 week (or so) anniversary!

I’m opening this thread for feedback on the site.  In the comments, tell us what you like. More importantly, tell us what you don’t like so that we can get better.

Here are some things that I’d like to hear about:

  • The look of the new site
  • The quality of the mistakes that are posted
  • The experience of analyzing the mistakes — do you find it challenging, or is it easy to understand and respond to a student error?
  • The quality of the prompting questions in the posts
  • The ability to browse mistakes using the menu on the left
I’ll end the post with a quick plug to send us your or your students’ mistakes. If you find yourself going back to school, remember to bring a camera and find 4-5 interesting errors to send in. Especially if you teach K-8 or college math.
  • mpershan

    I’ll start things off with a concern I have as I’m working through the exercises. I’m finding that there’s a pretty low bar on explaining student errors. That’s not because it’s easy to figure out what students are thinking — it’s not — but because in the absence of any way to verify my explanations of student thinking, anything that I say is good enough. It’s hard to disagree with any explanation that’s offered. That shows in the comments — there has been almost no disagreement about student mistakes. And shouldn’t there be?

    On the other hand, figuring out next steps for the teacher has been very challenging for me.

    So, in short, here’s what I’m wondering: do people feel as if the practice of explaining student errors is making us any smarter? Do people feel as if the practice of coming up with next steps for the teacher is making us any smarter?

    • Michael Falk

      Are you suggesting that we should put less focus on the mistakes in the math and more focus on what we perceive to be the mistakes of our fellow posters?

      • mpershan

        No, though I do think that there should be more invoking of evidence when offering an explanation for a student’s error. Like, what aspects of the student’s work does your explanation provide? What are the weaknesses of your explanation? That would enable us to become more sensitive to the cues from students, I think.

  • I think that being aware of common student errors, and formulating a strategy to address those errors, is a good first step that will help a lot of students (and teachers). However, and I may be wrong here, I feel that a lot of the mistakes / errors that are submitted are unusual, unique to individual students. When a mistake is unique, it is really hard to understand what the student was thinking, especially since there is no confirmation. Not a reason to throw in the towel, but definitely something to consider. The silver lining? If even one response to a student error gives a new way to explain a concept to a student, it is a win. Keep up the great work, it is a great blog!

  • As with any good problem or problem-solving, a teacher should anticpate different strategies and possible solutions from students: the good, the bad, the ugly. I think this site serves this purpose well as an open invitation to teachers to reflect on the students’ mistakes and think of next steps. Teachers who have taught the same math subject for an extended period of time will likely have anticipated a large reserve of common mistakes. But then this begs the question, “Why do we *continue* to see the SAME mistakes from our students if we already knew their vulnerability from the start? Why can’t we help them avoid these pitfalls? How should we have scaffolded the lesson?…”

    It’s summer now, so I don’t have submissions but will definitely send them your way beginning in September. And as more mistakes are posted over time, perhaps you might consider subcategories, or better yet, as “key standards” under each subject heading. If I’m getting ready to teach a lesson on solving exponential equations, it’d be helpful to find that heading instead of just algebra.

    I really like the site, Michael. Thank you!

    • mpershan

      Awesome comment Fawn. There’s a lot to think about, but, briefly, I want to mention that we are categorizing posts using “subcategories.” The previous post was filed under “logarithms”, and its parent category was “Algebra 2.” You should be able to use the menu on the left side of the page to browse through the various subcategories.

      • Fawn is an idiot. I totally saw the sub categories AFTER I left the comment. So sorry!! My excuse is the 3:43 AM time stamp.

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  • Evan Romer

    (1) I really like the site.

    (2) Some of the examples have been marked by the teacher to indicate where the mistake occurs. I’d like to be able to use these examples with my students, without telling them where the mistake is (or even if there is a mistake).

    I suggest that you suggest to your contributers that they not mark up the student work (or that they erase or obscure any markings they’ve already made).

    (3) Going forward I think you’re likely to be overwhelmed by examples. The sheer number of examples may make the site hard to use. You need to think about a way to sort out the most interesting/useful examples, categorize by topics and grade levels, etc.

    Evan Romer
    Susquehanna Valley HS