What is it?
Understanding potential misconceptions is one of the keys to successfully planning and teaching a given topic. When we are aware of what students might misunderstand, we can plan for it - arming ourselves with explanations and supporting resources.
This resource can help. It is a collection of 90 common errors by Key Stage 2 pupils, presented so learners must work out what went wrong. Some classic examples include:
Rebecca simplifies 4/9 to 2/4.5. What went wrong?
Alexia is working out the area of a triangle. She adds the base and height and then multiplies by two. What went wrong?
Mohamed is multiplying 10.1 by 100. He says the answer is 10.100. What went wrong?
Although this resource has been designed with KS2 in mind, I know it will be of great use with my KS3, and even KS4, classes.
How can it be used?
It can be used as an informative planning tool and is useful for all teachers, but in particular for those who have not been teaching for long and have less experience of where students are likely to go wrong.
But it can also be used in lessons. Once pupils have been taught and practised the correct method in a topic, they can be presented with a selection of misconceptions and challenged to explain them. This could generate fascinating discussions and helps students develop the ability to articulate and argue their thoughts about mathematics.
A word of caution - I would be careful to ensure that learners are solid in their understanding of the correct method, otherwise they may be just as likely to remember and reproduce what went wrong, as what went right!
Craig Barton was speaking to Heather Charles. He is a secondary maths teacher in the north of England.