Purdue University Graduate School
Teachers' responses to children's mistakes in kindergarten mathematics classrooms.pdf (684.13 kB)

Teachers' responses to children's mistakes in kindergarten mathematics classrooms

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posted on 2020-07-25, 00:03 authored by Qian LiQian Li

Making mistakes is an inevitable part of mathematics learning and an essential aspect of teaching. The current study examined the patterns and key variations in teachers’ responses to children’s mistakes in kindergarten mathematics classrooms. I developed a coding scheme using both inductive and deductive approaches to document the discourse across a series of video-recorded mathematics lessons from a sample of 24 public school kindergarten teachers. Based on previous classroom observational studies, I first outlined four significant dimensions of teachers’ mistake-handling practices: (1) instructional support: the instructional strategies teachers use to elaborate on students’ mistakes and incorporate their mistakes into ongoing mathematics instructions, (2) emotional reactions: the valence of teachers’ affective reactions to students’ mistakes (i.e., positive, negative, or neutral), (3) locus of responsibility: the individual who is responsible for correcting the mistake, and (4) the nature of mistakes: teachers’ explicit communication about the causes, consequences, and value of making mistakes. Then, I followed an open-coding process to document emergent sub-categories related to each dimension. The study revealed distinct patterns of teachers’ mistake-related practices for the four major dimensions and the complexity of the teacher-child interaction surrounding mistakes. In addition, results indicated that teachers’ positive emotional reactions toward children’s mistakes were associated with their high-quality instructional support and adaptive statements regarding the nature of mistakes. The current study contributes to the understanding of adaptive strategies teachers could use to address children’s mistakes in mathematics classrooms.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Educational Studies

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

P. Youli Mantzicopoulos

Additional Committee Member 2

Helen Patrick

Additional Committee Member 3

Laura Bofferding

Additional Committee Member 4

David Sears

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