Making Mistakes (on purpose) in the Classroom

I recently participated in a twitter chat where it was discussed how important it is to model not knowing the answer to everything and making mistakes. It made me reflect on the fact that I need to do this more in my teaching.

Recently in maths as a tuning in activity, I wrote the statement of 2 groups of 4 but I drew 4 groups of 2 like this:


4 groups of 2

We spoke about what was wrong with my picture. I said things like, but this is 2 groups of 4 as there are 2 dots and 4 groups. It was great to see them fired up and hearing their reasoning such as:

  • Your picture is not right because you have 4 groups instead of 2 groups.
  • Your picture is not right because each group has 2, whereas you should have 4.

My students really enjoyed ‘correcting’ my misconception and it was great to hear their reasoning. They said things like “But you’re a teacher and you’re making mistakes!” I responded by saying, “Even teachers can make mistakes. Thanks for teaching me and correcting my mistake.” This activity got me thinking that I should do this more often in maths, where I pose a problem which I know to be wrong, but I pretend that it’s right and get the students to articulate why it is incorrect.

What type of mistakes do you make on purpose in the classroom? How have your students responded?