Did you know that there are four types of mistakes? I certainly didn't until this past weekend at a conference. In fact, it is important that the student know what type of mistake so they can better learn from it.

The first type of mistake is the "Stretch Mistake". This is the type of mistake we make when we are first learning new skills because we are stretching out our knowledge. When we first learn new skills or material, we are going to make mistakes. This type of mistake is best handled by reflecting, identifying what we are learning, and adjust our practice till we learn the material.

The second type of mistake is the "Aha-Moment Mistake. This is the mistake that sends the light bulb off when we see how all the parts fit together and then we can do the work or skill. It is a mistake like calling a friend to wish them a happy birthday. We got the date right but the wrong month. In math it might be dividing when we should have multiplied and we learn from that mistake.

The third type of mistake is the "Sloppy Mistake". The mistake we make because we know what we are doing but we don't pay attention to our work so we do something like 2 x 3 = 5. We add instead of multiplying.

The final type of mistake is the "High-Stakes Mistakes". These are the ones people do not want to make in a life or death situation such as the doctors in ER. If they make a mistake it could result in death. For many students, these mistakes occur when taking the SAT, ACT, or other high stakes testing which could make all the difference in being accepted into the college of choice.

The big over all picture is simply that the only way to learn from a mistake is to reflect on the mistake made and figuring out how to learn from it. Just acknowledging the mistake may not be enough to make corrections. It requires us to make the decision to change and learn from the mistake.

I wonder how many of us ask our students to think about the mistakes they make. Ask "What did you do wrong?" "How can you do this right next time?" I've done it on tests but not on daily work. We want them to learn to do it correctly and learning to look at the type of mistakes the students make can help us help them improve.