“Careless Mistakes” Part 2

4 Jan

If we want to declare  war on “careless mistakes”, we need to, as the ancient book of The Art of War by Sun Tzu says, “know thy self, know thy enemy”.


“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_War)

First let us take a closer look at our enemy—“careless mistakes”. Below is a frequently occurring classroom conversation.

Teacher asks: “‘How is it that you get this question wrong?”

Student 1: “Careless lah! I never read the question.”

Student 2: “Oopsies….Careless leh! I see wrongly.”

Student 3: “Oops…Careless lor! I forgot about the minus sign in front.”

“Careless” seems to be an all-encompassing word trying to capture the essence of all kinds of mistakes. On the contrary, the overuse of “careless” has obscured the real problems behind it. “Careless” is an easy answer to the difficult question, “what has gone wrong with the student’s approach to the problem?”

Through my observations in class, many errors may not truly be due to “carelessness”. There can be some other underlying problems.

Once the student follows a more systematic way of approaching the problem or has a deeper understanding of the concept, or even writes just a tad more neatly without squeezing all rough working together with proper working, you will be amazed  at how much less “careless mistakes” there are. As teachers and parents, we need to probe further. Do not allow “careless mistakes”, the poor scapegoat, to fool you.


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