Recognizing mistakes and figuring out ways of correcting them are crucial skills not just in math but in all subjects. When kids notice the teacher make a mistake, they usually find it very funny. Our lesson last week was all about us making mistakes and the students correcting them.
Finding the mistakes was generally the easy part, but correcting them was not always straightforward. The kids were given “equations” made out of sticks, like this one:
As you can see, this is a false equation, as the two sides are not equal. It used to be correct, but someone came along and moved one stick. The challenge for the kids was to move the stick back to make the equation true again.
What I like about these problems is that for little kids they are not formulaic and require a number of different skills. A kid can be very good at arithmetic and have a lot of trouble with these types of problems. At the same time, there are kids that just look at the problems and very quickly see the fix.
Most of the kids in our classes found the problems challenging but fun. There was much amusement when the kids would find the mistakes or move the sticks in funny ways. There was also quite a bit of frustration when the answers were doing a good job of hiding. However, we would try to give the kids hints before they got too burnt out on a problem.