A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

Mistakes Welcome

Mistakes Welcome

"Understand our strengths and show resilience by using feedback to over come our challenges." – from Latin's Statement of Teaching and Learning

In my four-year old son's classroom, they have a marble jar, and the kids get to put a marble in the jar every time a teacher noticed them being particularly kind to another child. Once they filled the jar, they'd get a pizza party! I remembered this when faced with the challenge of encouraging my eleventh grade students to be comfortable telling their peers about their mistakes and reflecting on those mistakes as a group – this takes some vulnerability and courage. 

From the research that mathematics education professor and author, Jo Boaler, has done at Stanford University, it is clear that the deepest and long-lasting learning comes not from correctly replicating a procedure or fact that a teacher showed you, but rather from reflecting on mistakes and errors that have come up in the process of problem solving. This is the main focus of Latin's Honors Precalculus classroom, which is entirely student-led; students do six rich, exploratory problems for homework, which can often be done in more than one way or might have more than one answer. They then bring that work to the classroom, and students present their work on the board and discuss as a group. If no one shares their mistakes, then it hasn't been a good class, because misunderstandings haven't been addressed.

Mid-year, I remembered my son's marble jar and thought that it might be a fun way to encourage the sharing of mistakes. A student took it upon themselves to bring in marbles and decorate the jar, and then each day the students run the marble jar themselves – they've taken full ownership of the process. And they've become much more excited to share their mistakes as it gets them ever closer to a little party – even 17-year-olds are motivated by fun and food!

– Danika Amusin, Upper School Mathematics


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