Blog: EEF: Three practical approaches to help pupils learn from mathematical mistakes (September 2020)

Simon Cox, writing on the Education Endowment Foundation website, provides three evidence-based suggestions for addressing mathematical misconceptions and gaps in knowledge.

“Misconceptions and gaps in knowledge are nothing new to mathematics teachers , so it’s worth exploring the existing evidence around ways to tackle them. We need to be clear that mathematical misconception is an understanding that leads to a ‘systematic pattern of errors’, often resulting from application of accurate knowledge outside of the context in which it is useful.

A good example of this is the misconception that ‘multiplication makes bigger’. When children first encounter multiplication, they deal – quite rightly – only with positive, whole numbers. This, often subconsciously, leads to the formation of a ‘rule’ which they won’t see broken for several years. But by then the damage has been done – the misconception is well and truly embedded.”