Tick-Trash-Improve – Standard Form: TES Maths Resource of the Week

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What is it?
Who doesn’t love a bit of Tick or Trash? For years it has been my go-to way of getting students to reflect on common errors in a bid to ensure they themselves do not make them. In my Pedagogy Place series, I discussed the research surrounding this approach to teaching (LINK TO SPOT THE MISTAKE). Here we have an upgrade to a classic. As well as being asked to either tick or trash an answer to a standard form question, there is now a third option – improve. This is for answers that are not entirely incorrect, but which could certainly be made better. This adds an extra degree of complexity to the activity, and could help ensure students’ understanding of the topic is even more secure.

How can it be used?
As I discussed in my Pedagogy Place article, activities like this are great for promoting a deeper understanding of a skill or concept, but should probably be left until students’ understanding of the basics is reasonably secure as there is a risk that they will not be in a position to distinguish between correct and incorrect approaches, and hence my in fact develop some misconceptions. As such, I like to use them at the end of a topic unit, maybe as part of a homework. Standard form lends itself particularly well to the tick, trash, improve approach as you can write answers that are mathematically equivalent, and yet not in standard form. However, the topic is by no means unique. Calculations involving fractions that have not been fully simplified, formulae that have not been fully rearranged, missing units, and indeed any question that has not been quite finished off would work just as well. Let’s hope this is just the beginning of tick, trash, improve!

Thanks so much for sharing
Craig Barton

Download: Standard Form: Tick, Trash, Improve
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