Whiteboard, Part 2
Earlier this school year, I put a whiteboard up in the kitchen.
Since then, I’ve been challenging the kids by writing math problems on the board. I don’t write typical problems, though. I try to come up with things they haven’t seen before, forcing them to use their skills in new ways.
The kids both like it and hate it.
They like it because it feels really, really good to get one of the problems right. It’s a high visibility challenge, and correct answers are celebrated.
They hate it, because. . . well, math can be scary.
This week is finals week for the boys, so, naturally, this past weekend has seen a lot of white-boarding.
My youngest was at the board this morning, working a problem.
“Are you sure about that?” I interrupted partway through.
“Yes,” he said without pausing. They’re fairly used to me challenging them.
“Sorry,” I said. “That step is wrong.”
When one of the kids has a problem with schoolwork I always start by saying something is wrong. I think there’s a lot of value in letting the kids find their own mistakes. I’m happy to help if they can’t, but I like to give them first crack at it.
“No, it’s not.” he insisted.
I tilted my head at him, confused. He hadn’t even glanced back at what he’d done. “I’m not tricking you. There really is a mistake.”
“No!” he said. “There isn’t!”
We stared at each other for a few heartbeats, neither backing down.
“Look at my face,” I said at last. “Would it look like this if everything was right?”
“Um.” he glanced back at the whiteboard. “Let me check again.”