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Planning for Math Misconceptions

When you begin to teach a unit, it’s essential to know the types of errors students typically make related to the concept you’ll be teaching. Basically, if you know where the train is going to derail, you can head it off at the pass. Over time, you notice misconceptions, file them away in a mental file cabinet, and you learn to plan for them.

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If you want to speed up that process, however, Math Misconceptions, From Misunderstanding to Deep Understanding, PreK-Grade 5ย is a wonderful resource.

Talking about misconceptions should be a part of your team planning process, because you need to address those misconceptions in your instruction. I’ve prepared a little place value freebie that illustrates what I mean by that.

One problem with place value is that students can name the places in a number, but they don’t really understand the value. In this first challenge, students must explain the value of a given digit. Notice that they also must use 2 zeros in their number–another very common stumbling block, especially when reading large numbers.

Another misconception is that more digits mean a bigger number. That is certainly true with whole numbers, but not with decimals. If you look at the card below, students would be likely to say that 13.055 is the largest number, because it has the most digits. Keep in mind that just throwing this challenge into a workstation isn’t going to overcome the misconception. By the time students see this activity, they should have had lots of opportunities to explore the concept using manipulatives or drawings.

So remember, careful planning and shrewd instruction will stop the misconception train dead in its tracks. Click here to grab your set of 8 place value challenges.

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15 Comments

    1. It’s kind of a series. They have a general one (the one I included) and they also have grade level books with activities to undo the misconceptions. Very helpful!

    2. Thanks, Donna! I need to get this set of books, also. Thanks so much for sharing this great post with us! Love your new ‘look’!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Thank you!
    I just attended a conference where I was able to learn AND understand base 2 through base 16. I am going to do my best to help my students understand place VALUE.

  2. I really like your place value challenge cards. Thanks for sharing them with us. These would make great journal responses or blog posts for my students.

    1. Sounds like a great workshop! I think misconceptions is something that doesn’t get near enough airtime. Enjoy some time off now!

  3. Great post. I try to write in my planbooks from year to year the misconceptions I catch so that I can nip it in the bud the next year around. I will definitely be looking into getting that book! Thanks

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