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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Am I Wrong?

Today a girl called me over to check her work. She didn't say, "Could you please check my work?" She didn't say, "Did I do this right?" She asked, "Am I wrong?"

This. Kills. Me.

1. Have you ever heard a boy utter these words? I'll bet you that it's never happened.
2. Why do so many students, especially girls, lack confidence in math?
3. Even the wording, "Am I wrong" eats away at me, because it implies that there is something wrong with the person, rather than the work.
4. Even if the work has an error in it, what's the big deal? Errors can be corrected.

For the record, this student was doing her work correctly. So why was there an implicit assumption that her work would not be correct?

How do we as teachers fight this and train our students, especially girls, to have confidence in what they know? I want ALL of my students to be confident and proud. I never want to hear another girl say, "This is probably wrong but...."

How often do you hear girls say things like this in your class? What do you do to combat these attitudes?


  1. I try to engage the assumption by asking my student "Is there a reason that you think it is wrong?" So far that's not getting results in addressing the root problem, but it does open up an opportunity to discuss if the answer is reasonable or why to follow a given set of steps.

    In my experience the boys will often ask "Is this right?" which clearly illustrates your point.

  2. Hello! This post was recommended for The Best of the Math Teacher Blogs 2016: a collection of people's favorite blog posts of the year. We would like to publish an edited volume of the posts at the end of the year and use the money raised toward a scholarship for TMC. Please let us know by responding via whether or not you grant us permission to include your post. Thank you, Tina and Lani.