The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.

Learning something new without making mistakes is not only difficult but also unrealistic. As parents and educators, it’s crucial for us to reassure children that making mistakes is a normal part of the learning journey. It would also be helpful to understand mistakes and make them work for you.

We must recognize that mistakes serve as valuable ‘feedback’ from children. By analyzing these mistakes, we can identify areas that require additional attention and support. It’s crucial to distinguish between collateral mistakes (such as when 7th graders multiply 2 by 3 and get 5) and actual mistakes (when a student does not grasp the concept). Each mistake is a stepping stone towards understanding and mastery.

During our practice, we see many students who avoid making mistakes. They prefer to do nothing than to make a mistake. Most of the time, they know how to solve a problem but are not 100% sure this is the correct solution, and instead of trying to do something, they prefer to say “I do not know,” and wait for the explanation.

We assure you that learning math is no different from learning another new concept. The theory is important, but it is worth nothing without practice. You cannot learn to tie shoelaces from the explanation; you must do it physically several times before understanding. Same with math. To learn how to solve problems, we have to practice.

We think this behavior has two reasons: lack of motivation and lack of self-confidence.

Our goal, as parents and teachers, is to focus not on how to avoid mistakes but on how to fix mistakes and make them work for you.

Let’s delve into the issue of self-confidence, which we believe is a key factor contributing to weak motivation. When children lack confidence in their abilities, they are more likely to shy away from challenges and learning opportunities. Building their self-confidence is a crucial step towards fostering a love for learning and a willingness to take risks.

We need to ensure that children understand that mistakes are typical while learning. Giving children a second chance is the easiest and fastest way to do it. Mark the problem where you see a mistake and ask to solve it again. If a child sees and fixes a mistake, you can say it is collateral and move on; if not, you must explain it again.

Children in an environment that embraces mistakes as part of the learning process feel liberated to explore different solutions independently, without waiting for instructions. This fosters independent thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for their mental growth and development. Encouraging a mistake-friendly environment is a powerful tool in helping children become more confident and capable learners.

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