Right to be wrong

19th January 2007 at 00:00
We all make mistakes. It's a DNA thing and part and parcel of who we are.

But what about making some deliberate ones in a maths lesson? Presenting children with some premeditated errors or purposeful misconceptions is an effective way of promoting deeper learning. It helps them play detective, especially when presented in a novel format.

Graphic organisers such as Venn diagrams are great tools for planting mistakes inside. For example, you might present children with a completed or partially completed Venn diagram. The idea is that children look at the Venn together, make sense of the information, spot anything out of place and flag it up as incongruous. The Venn circles might be labelled "prime numbers" and "multiples of three" and you could plant numbers one and 13 inside the intersection or a rogue number in one of the circles.

Children could work together with maths buddies or small groups of three or four and talk about their ideas. After discussing and sharing what they think, groups can create some "wobbly" Venns for others to try. The learning curves can sometimes be quite impressive

John Dabell is a numeracy consultant and teacher trainer

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