The Key to a Good Math Teacher? Insight on Error

Experts Say Best Instructors Spot Where Students Go Wrong

Student at blackboard

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Research shows that teachers with degrees in the subjects they teach are more successful. That's the reason behind teacher-certification requirements in the federal No Child Left Behind education law.

But as Robert Frederick reports, not all mathematicians are successful math teachers. Most could use some help in becoming calculating sleuths. Education experts note that most advanced math programs are geared toward theoretical as opposed to practical instruction.

Analyze Where Math Students Went Wrong

Three students were asked to multiply 35 by 25. The answer is 875. Each came up with the wrong answer, but for different reasons. Can you figure out where each went wrong?

Student A

Student B

Student C

Developed by Deborah Ball, Heather Hill, Hyman Bass and colleagues, University of Michigan School of Education

It's not enough to know math, says Judith Ramaley of the National Science Foundation. Teachers "also need to understand how the minds of young people work, and how to diagnose… the kinds of tangles kids get into," she says.

See if you can spot where students stumbled in the three sample math problems at left.

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