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How to Prevent Silly Mistakes in Math

One of the most common questions we hear from parents is, “Why does my child make so many silly mistakes, and how can I help them stop?”

What parents and students first have to realize is that most silly mistakes aren’t a result of carelessness; they are a result of not fully feeling comfortable with the material.

This means that the way to make fewer silly mistakes is to practice the material until you have it mastered.

Since students make the most silly mistakes in math, let’s talk about how to prevent silly math mistakes by effectively preparing and mastering the concepts.

How to Effectively Practice Math

Many students struggle with knowing how to effectively practice math. They go through the motions of completing problems, and they think this is enough to ensure they perform well on their tests.

In order to effectively practice math, you need to practice as if you are taking the real test. Think about if you are practicing a sport: let’s use basketball as an example. You’re at basketball practice and your coach asks you to practice shooting a foul shot. Instead of shooting your foul shot the way you would normally shoot during a game, you decide to throw up a granny shot, or an underhanded lob, to shoot the ball into the basket.

Your coach would probably be upset with you, right? You’re not practicing the method of shooting that you’re actually going to use in the game, so the practice isn’t going to be effective. The point of practicing for sports is to prepare you for the game: so you need to practice the same way that you would play in the game. The same is true for math.

When you’re practicing for a math test, you need to practice as if you are taking the real test. This means you need to do the following:

  • Carefully read the directions and underline what is important in the problem.

  • Show your work and write out your steps, even if you are using a calculator.

  • Double check that you are answering the correct question.

  • Check your work and make sure that your answers logically make sense.

  • Stay focused and pay attention to details.

Another important thing to do when practicing math is to keep track of the mistakes you make throughout your practice. If you are continuously making silly mistakes and not keeping track of those mistakes, how can you expect to improve? Keep a running list of the silly mistakes you make: writing them down and reading over them will help prevent you from making the same mistakes in the future.

How to Tell if You’ve Mastered a Math Concept

Many students don’t fully understand what it means to truly master a math concept. Students will complete ten practice problems, answer only eight of those questions correctly, and say that they’ve mastered a concept. Mastering a concept means that you should be able to answer every question covering that concept correctly.

In order to determine if you’ve truly mastered a math concept, you should be able to complete 10-20 practice problems without making any mistakes.

Now that you have some clear guidelines to follow to help prevent silly mistakes, it’s up to you to make the change! Nothing will happen overnight, but if you follow these steps and commit to following the rules listed above, you’ll be on your way to mistake-free tests!


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