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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Error Analysis for Enrichment and Critical Thinking

This year, working with a wide variety of students, many needing either extra help or extra enrichment and extensions, I have been doing a lot of reading about all different levels of need.  One of my absolute FAVORITE ideas for enrichment this year has been error analysis.  I have done it with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders on different topics, and they are a big hit.

Why I love Error Analysis 

The Research I began creating Error Analysis sheets for my students are reading about Marzano's New Taxonomy (Systems of Knowledge).  Under Analysis, he lists Error Analysis as an exceptional way to promote thinking and learning.  As soon as I read this, I knew error analysis would be incredibly meaningful for both enrichment purposes AND reteaching purposes.

Students Love It! My students LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the challenge error analysis poses, and I have even seen kids take error analysis sheets out to recess because they are determined to figure out what error took place, or the perfect wording to describe what happened.

It Encourages Critical Thinking  So much of what students are asked to do in math is all about solving the problem and finding the answer.  That's important, but students need to look at math in different ways to truly grasp concepts.  Otherwise, we end up with a very surface-level understanding.  They have to figure out the error, explain the error in their own words, rework the problem, and attempt to give advice to the student who made the mistake.  That's a lot of critical thinking going into one problem!

How I Create Error Analysis Tasks

I research different errors that are commonly made in whatever concept we are working on, I pull from common errors I have seen before, and I take errors that my kids are currently making.   Then, I make a page with a problem that has an error, and it is the student's job to figure out what the error is.  This is not easy for students, but oh my, it sure stretches their thinking!  You can easily take any student error and turn it into an error analysis task.

Once they figure out what the problem is, they have to give the "student" who made the mistake some advice on avoiding the problem next time (also challenging for the kids).  Then, they have to rework the problem on their own.  I usually do one or two with the kids first so that they know my expectations, and then they are begging me to pass them out and send them off on their own. 

FREE Addition Error Analysis
Ways to Use Error Analysis
You can use these error analysis tasks in so many different ways.  For my talented and gifted kids, I have used them as an assessment when they have shown mastery of a unit.  For kids in the regular classroom needing enrichment, I go in and do a mini-lesson, then have them complete the tasks in a center.


For students needing extra support, we complete error analysis in small groups.  We go step-by-step through the concept and they are always able to eventually identify what the error is.

I have even sent these home as homework, which the kids love!

Ready Made Error Analysis Tasks

Don't want to create your own?  I have many of these in my TpT store, and one of them is FREE for you! In addition to my FREE addition with regrouping mini- set, which is the perfect set to start off with, I also have a Multi-Digit Multiplication Error Analysis Pack and a Long Division Error Analysis Pack.  I include answer keys with POSSIBLE answers, and I always include a blank analysis page for you to create your own based on errors students in your class are making.

I have included the addition with regrouping error analysis for free because it's the perfect place to start, no matter the grade.  Try them in your class, and if you do, let me know how it goes!

Updated 2017:  When I originally posted this in 2012, I never imagined how much I would TRULY fall in love with Error Analysis!  Since then, I have created error analysis tasks for almost every math concept I teach, and my students beg for them!  Click the image below to find all of my error analysis tasks:


  1. I really like this idea and your worksheet. I will be using it. I've done it informally in the past on whiteboards in my guided groups and found that it really promoted mathematical thinking and accountable talk by the students. It teaches the kids to be aware of their own thinking. In reading, we teach Monitoring Comprehension and fix up strategies. In math, students need to be taught this as well.

    Often times as teachers, we say to double check your work without really teaching the kids how to double check. Error analysis is a great way to teach kids how to double check their work for careless errors.

  2. Hi,

    This such a good post. I teach first and struggled with a way to keep my high kids going, and I think this is a great way of doing it. What book by Marzano did you read?I'd like to read up on it some more. Thanks.:-)