The more that I teach, the more I wonder why students make such careless mistakes! During my TA placement, I attributed the issue to the class I was teaching since it was all low achieving math students. Yet, now I am finding the same thing in my “on track” 8th grade math students and even more surprisingly, in my “ahead” Algebra 1 students.

To me, missing negatives, writing the problem wrong, or just plugging things into the calculator incorrectly are mistakes that should seldom be happening at this level! The problem is that I don’t know what else to do to help my students overcome these silly mistakes. Personally, getting points off on quizzes and tests continually would be motivation enough to pay attention to the details.

I have talked to several other math teachers and they are having the same feelings as I am. It seems no matter how many times you say it, the students still forget negatives–it kills me! The worst part is I see them solving the equations completely correct, but when they actually write their final answer they just forget to write the negative sign! I have an inner struggle about if I should or shouldn’t take points off for that. I think, “okay, I’m testing them on solving equation skills and they did that correctly” but at the same time I think, “the answer simply isn’t correct and they should not get rewarded for carelessness.”

I just hope I am able to find a way to encourage my students to be careful and meticulous in their mathematics in order to prove that they fully understand the topic. Any suggestions on how to do this would be much appreciated!