Get it wrong to get it right

Are you ready to discover the magic of mathematics? If so, strap in and get ready to learn how to get it wrong to get it right. Our Director of Secondary, John Kernis, will teach you that in mathematics the process is as important as the result. By understanding mistakes and making them, you can unleash creativity and new ideas in your mathematical endeavours.

The magic of the mathematics

While visiting one of our Math classes this week, I was taken by something that happened. OK, a number of things. First, as a hook to the learning engagement, the teacher asked each student to think of a number but to keep it to themselves. 

Then, students were asked to perform a series of relatively straightforward operations and – voila! – the teacher was able to guess the number. All correct. 

While the class – and certainly I – were wowed by the mind-reading magic just displayed, the teacher then pulled back the curtain to reveal the algebraic function that helped “guess” the answer. Only, it was no guess. The magic was in the process

The process is what really matters, not the end

Later on in the lesson, students were working in different groups to solve their algebraic equations. At one point, two students became engaged in productive disagreement around solving an equation

While the initial conversation was about the answer, when they discovered who had the right answer, they began to look back at how each of them got to their answer. I asked one of them, “At what point did you potentially go down the wrong track?” “Right here…” the student said, explaining how one side of the equation had not done exactly the same as the other. 

The student then went on to explain, “Process is the most important. If you get that right, if you go at it carefully, the natural result is the correct answer.” The magic was in the process. 

The magic that matters most

I tell this story first because I thought it was a wonderful moment of reflection for learning. When the learning intention is specifically about say, in this case, articulating solutions and communicating learning, for example, students understand what they are working toward and how to get there. 

When we focus too much on grades, we lose the essence of what school should be: a place to drive learning forward. The student who got the answer wrong arguably learned more that day than the student who got the answer correct. 

What matters more is the reflection, the rewinding, the replaying, and making that stick. It is these processes that catalyze learning. It is the magic that matters most.

John Kernis
Director of Secondary