Smartick is an online platform for children to master math in only 15 minutes a day

Dec22

# Failure is an Option. Mistakes and Misunderstandings as Teaching Tools

In Ron Howard’s 1995 film Apollo 13, actor Ed Harris, when faced with the possible catastrophic loss of three astronauts in the doomed Apollo 13 lunar mission, utters the famous phrase, Failure is not an option. Taken in context, the statement makes sense. The film is based on the 1970 accident in space and the mission to return the crew safely to Earth. Of course, Harris, as Gene Kranz, does not want to fail. What flight director wants to lose his men?

Taken in the completely different context of children learning math, however, the phrase should read, Failure IS an option. Failure, mistakes, and misunderstandings are all teaching tools. Making mistakes allows you to see your own weaknesses so you can shore them up. Unless you submerge the bike tire in water, you’ll never see where the leaks are. If you can’t find those imperfections, you won’t know to patch them and you’ll go out on the road with a flat tire. Just as you’d like to be prepared for your ride by having a well-maintained bicycle, you want your child prepared for the academic world by having a well-maintained mind. Allowing your child to make mistakes and learn from them is an essential part of parenting and teaching.

Smartick, the interactive, online mathematics method, uses artificial intelligence to study each child’s responses. Then it adapts. Smartick learns where a student needs help and provides more exercises of that type for him to solve. It uses artificial intelligence to customize a plan to suit each child.

What does that mean in terms of your child’s experience with Smartick? That means your child will get some math problems wrong and when they do, the program will add more of that same kind of problem (but not repeat the exact same problem) to their repertoire until they get it right and understands the basic concepts, cold. All this, at their own learning pace, always challenging but without frustration.

What does that mean for your child’s future? In the smaller sense, that means your child will, through trial and error, improve their knowledge of math. In the larger sense, that means when your child comes across something they don’t know, they’ll do some problem-solving and learn about it. They won’t get frustrated and give up. When faced with a challenge, your child will rise to the occasion. They’ll become smarter, more resilient, and a more independent thinker. They’ll become the kind of thinker who works as an engineer at NASA. The kind of thinker who didn’t give up on those men in the doomed space capsule. The kind of thinker who persevered and brought their crew home.

At Smartick we believe that teaching kids to learn from their mistakes is an important part of their education. The astronauts, flight directors, and engineers responsible for sending men and women into space, and bringing them home safe would agree.