The Power of Mistakes and Struggle


I recently (well earlier in the year) bought this book –  Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching by Jo Boaler.  I was interested in the mindset work and also the mathematics element.  I know as a student I loved mathematics (sad I know) but as a Teacher it was often the most difficult to instil that same love of learning for mathematics.  I see it in my own children who come home and say “maths is boring”…anyway I thought that I would share this book (chapter by chapter…and only the key points)…Liz borrowed the book off me first and I know she put together some ideas she was going to try in class (maybe she will share…sorry Liz did I just dob you in 🙂 )

Anyway, starting with Chapter 2 on  the power of mistakes…

When I have told teachers that mistakes cause your brain to spark and grow, they have said, “Surely this happens only if students correct their mistake and go on to solve the problem.” But this is no the case.  In fact, Moser’s study shows us that we don’t even have to be aware we have made a mistake for brain sparks to occur…because it is a time of struggle; the brain is challenged, and this is the time when the brain grows the most.

How Can We Change the Ways Students View Mistakes?

When we teach students that mistakes are positive, it has an incredibly liberating effect on them.

The habits of successful people in general:

  • Feel comfortable being wrong
  • Try seemingly wild ideas
  • Are open to different experiences
  • Play with ideas without judging them
  • Are willing to go against traditional ideas

One idea for class

Asking students who have been working on a problem and have knowingly made a mistake to share that mistake on the board.  Allows for discussions around common misconceptions and to solve the problem together.

Other resources:


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2 thoughts on “The Power of Mistakes and Struggle

  1. where can i find a blank copy of this picture? I would like to have my students create a picture similar to this based on their own interests in the first few days of school.

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