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It’s Okay to Make Mistakes!



By Jeanne Lazzarini, Math Master Educator/R&D Specialist, RAFT

I have often shared with my students that I make mistakes, and I have learned so much because of them! Sometimes I even purposefully made a mistake in a math lesson to see if students take notice! Let your students know it is okay to make mistakes, and when you do, your brain is developing new insights, new ways of thinking, and bursts of conceptual understanding!  





From an early age many of us are taught that it’s bad to make mistakes, to fear failures, and to avoid them all costs. However, the truth is that failure and making mistakes are a necessary part of growing up and of being successful and should never be avoided! 

So, you might ask, how do I encourage students to feel okay about making mistakes?  Talk with them about mistakes and failures, including:
·         Have students investigate “famous” people who have made mistakes, then share them with the class!  They’ll be very surprised at these stories of success from failures!  (see:  http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/02/16/50-famously-successful-people-who-failed-at-first/ )
·         Encourage alternate ways of expressing thoughts; verbally, written, artistically, acted out, or whatever. Even if that thought is off-target, it often leads to other ideas that may not have otherwise been discovered!
·         Failure and mistakes teach us an approach may not be right for a particular solution, but opens the door to investigating alternate approaches.
·         Inspire stepping out of a “comfort zone” and trying something new! This leads to new insights and self-realization!  And each time you fail, your fear of failure becomes smaller, allowing you to take on bigger challenges!
·         Each failure brings you closer to your goals and makes you stronger and better.  This brings to mind the saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”….
·         Learn from your mistakes by thinking about where you can go beyond them to get better.  You will never fail as long as you
never give up! 
·         All “successful” people have failed and understand the value of not giving up! 
·         Research shows when students make mistakes, brains grow!


So, it is good to make mistakes, and it is very important to talk about this with your students! Share examples, encourage alternate ways of thinking through a problem, and you’ll see students blossom with a new enthusiasm for learning!

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