How to cure carelessness in Math?

Quite often I receive the question “how do I cure my child’s carelessness?” Well, the hard truth is you can’t cure it completely, but you can take steps to reduce it drastically. As a rule of thumb at most 5% of a test/exam can be due to carelessness (reading question wrongly, copying number wrongly and simple manipulation error). Anything more than that there’s probably a deeper problem lurking that requires investigation. But back to the topic of reducing carelessness. In my opinion there are at least three main ways which students can take:

  1. Write more steps in your workings – All that goes in your head should be penned down, the more detailed, complete your workings the less likely carelessness will arise;

  2. Do corrections on all careless mistakes – this is to ingrain some form of “pain” to the students so they will try to avoid it in future. Also, it helps to accumulate muscle memory on specific careless pitfalls to avoid in future;

  3. After (1) and (2), adopt a more conscious mode in all forms of practice, acknowledge that a mistake is a mistake, no matter how small. The purpose of sitting for a test/exam is to show excellence is both understanding and relevant executions of the topic. No excuses.

Carelessness can be reduced simply from more practice – it’s like shooting basketball free throws. World class shooters like Stephen Curry, John Stockton simply practice more, reflect and learn from their mistakes. They do not brush off a missed free throw as “oh well, bad luck” but rather it’s a lost point that can potentially cost their team the game.


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