Getting Answers WRONG in Math

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Last week, I drove my students to the edge of madness! Literally, mere minutes away from tearing of clothes and gnashing of teeth! 🙂 Well….not all of them; only a few! Actually it was specifically those who really REALLY love math class and really, REALLY, REALLY love getting the answers correct! And even then, these students weren’t really on the edge of madness, more like mildly annoyed. 😉

Here’s the story….

We’re learning about Order of Operations and BEDMAS (PEMDAS?). I wanted the 7s and 8s to really understand why they (budding mathematicians) needed rules when working with multiple operations. As I planned the lesson, I realized that if I let them have free reign with the equation, they might just make some mistakes. Then I thought, “what if I challenge them to get as many wrong answers as possible?”

Well, that’s what I did. At first, it was totally a bust. They didn’t want to get the wrong answer – some of them were pretty reluctant to work with mistakes – like red-faced and indignant! 🙂

As I was moving around the room, I commented to one group, “you guys have a wrong answer?
He replied, “Yep.
I answered him, “Good job!
As I walked away, I heard him comment to his group member, “That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard in Math class.

Once they got into it, wrong answers were put on the board and then we looked at what each group had done wrong (or right to get the wrong answer!).
When many wrong answers were submitted, we looked at BEDMAS and applied it to the given problems. They were really impressed with themselves when they started to get the same answers as their peers.

After all of that, they got to work practicing what they had learned. You could have heard a pin drop in Room 31! In the back corner, though, looking through some student work – one teacher with a huge grin, thinking to herself, “Whew! I’m glad that worked out….” 🙂


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