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Running Head: Error Analysis 1

Error Analysis: An Examination of Justin’s

Mathematics Errors

Aurora Turmelle

University of Maine Farmington

No matter what one’s concentration is, it is vital that a teacher is familiar and fluent in the

standards for their subject area. As these standards are the [national] criteria used to measure

student growth and development and are set benchmarkers that teachers need to use to ensure
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that their students are honing their academic skills and understanding. Specifically, as

mathematics is a subject that the majority of the nation’s students struggle with, it is vital that

teachers have a clear understanding of what is expected of their students, so they may better

adjust their teaching style to accommodate the needs of these students, as well as so they are able

to communicate said expectations to their students. Further, as so many standards are comprised Commented [1]: This is a long sentence

of multiple parts, it is important for teachers to be able to understand exactly what a standard is

measuring, as well as the various components that comprise a single standard, or how different

types of questions may or may not fall under some standards. Therefore, because teachers must Commented [2]: This is exactly true!

be able to adjust their teachings and curriculum to meet the needs of their struggling students, it’s

vital that they understand how and why their students are making errors.

Curriculum Based Measurements (CBM) are assessments used to gauge students’

mastery of a year’s curriculum at each level. Math test CBMs, in particular, are sixteen question

tests (i.e “probes”) that designed for small-scale use and are based on the National Council of

Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Focal Point Standards in Mathematics. While tests

traditionally test for facts-based understanding, math test CBMs focus more on conceptual

understanding and procedural understanding. Specifically, for our group, we examined four

different probes that were given to an eighth grade student named Justin. Given that CBMs are

meant to act as a quick form of assessment to determine where the student is proficient, where

they struggle, and where there may be split skills. Traditionally, CBMs are measured in terms of

fluency and accuracy. As the probes given to Justin were multiple choice, in this scenario we are

measuring in terms of probe accuracy (i.e, the percentage of problems he answered correctly).

Should these probes been a short-answered, the teacher could follow Justin’s work to see exactly

where an error was made, and if possible, could aware points based on procedural and
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conceptual understanding. An example of awarding points for procedural if he were to use the

correct formula for finding surface area (like Probe 7B, problem 11), but has a conceptual error

of what the rounded value of pi is (in this problem, he has a misunderstanding that pi = 3.1

instead of 3.14). Commented [3]: Excellent explanation of CBMs and

problem types.
When our group took to aligning each probe with the Common Core State Standards, our

group decided to break all of the scored probes into their own section (which we labeled

according to grade and probe type). Then, within each probe, our group worked to identify

similar problem types and then found standards in accordance with the types of problems we had

grouped. On average, each probe had anywhere between two to five standards that it measured.

As we took the approach of categorizing a large number of problems under an overarching genre

of mathematics (which can be seen in this Error Analysis table), we found it easier to reverse

engineer the types of problems and to match said problem types with the appropriate standard.

Generally, as we worked to align the problem types with the standards, we thought through a

funnel like sort of classification system: first, we began grouping by domain, then [general]

grade level, then lastly the specifics of each standard within the domain– picking the specific

standards that best-aligned with the probe’s problems. Commented [4]: This process generated rich
discussion among group members.
Given how error analysis can be a difficult thing to examine and diagnosis properly, our

group took to thinking as a mathematics student to figuring out why Justin made some of the

errors he did. That, accompanied alongside a thorough discussion of all of the possible errors that

the student may be making, we began working analyzing Justin’s error. As we began correcting

his errors, we as a group worked through the problems to figure out the correct answer, and to

see if anyone came up with anything different. Should someone have come up with a different,

incorrect answer, we would then discuss and decide whether that was the mistake that Justin
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could have made (these errors were generally careless errors, stemming from not fully reading

the problem, or dropping a sign.). If the error that occurred did not appear to be a careless error,

we would then all work out the problems while trying to see if we could produce the same

answer that Justin did. If we were able to, we would then be able to identify if the error was

conceptual or procedural (i.e, if there was an issue with the entire problem, or just the steps

needed to solve for the correct answer). By doing this, this allowed us as teachers to see not only

where Justin went wrong, but as well as where possible gaps in understanding could be (which

could be used to identify larger issues that the class faces). Further, by being able to understand

where Justin made errors, this provides the teacher opportunity to figure out where gaps in

knowledge are occurring, which can then be used to designate the direction that the teacher

would use to re-teach or reinforce the student’s understanding (i.e, the remediation process). Commented [5]: Outstanding explanation of your
To best support Justin while he takes math assessments, there are a couple of strategies

that a teacher could use when designing and implementing tests. The best way to support Justin

while he takes mathematics assessments is to incorporate his interests and strengths into the

math-probes. Given that his teacher has access to his interest survey, and is aware of his learning

style, the teacher could begin by integrating a more hands-on approach to problems using the

CRA model to best meet Justin’s academic strengths. As Justin is a kinesthetic learner and has

demonstrated throughout all of the mathematics probes that he does well when he has a visual

representation of the material at hand (i.e graphs, pictures, etc), using the CRA model would be a

natural step that a teacher could take in order to support Justin.

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Probe 7A, question 6;

Distance and rate problem.

Specifically, looking at Probe 7A, question 6 (which is assessed using Common Core State

Standard CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.RP.A.2.B), we see the question is a word problem

measuring students understanding of unit rate. This problem would be an ideal choice for

modification to better suit Justin’s interests, as well as implementing a CRA model of


To begin, given that this problem deals with cars, that is a mode of transportation that

Justin does not have the first-hand experience with as a driver. A teacher could easily change the

vehicle in the question to be a snowmobile, which still meets the standard of unit rate, but is also

something that Justin is both interested in and has the experience with of driving. By

incorporating his interests into a type of problem that he clearly expresses a disliking towards,

this can better encourage Justin to actually read the problem and to think about it in a real-world

and representational way. In addition to his lived experience with snowmobiles, should the

teacher want they could create a concrete manipulative (through use of model snowmobiles and a

number line to represent the distance the vehicle travels) to help Justin understand the

relationship between the distance traveled and the gas. Further, the teacher could also create a
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representational image by incorporating pictures to depict the distances that snowmobiles could

travel. Lastly, given that Justin has a lived experience of using a snowmobile [and has a general

understanding that the more gas the vehicle has the further it will go], this allows the teacher the

opportunity to help Justin develop an abstract understanding of the material, as he will be able to

draw from his background knowledge to rationalize how answer should look, as well a

generalized understanding of how to solve the problem- which deals with both conceptual and

procedural understanding. Commented [6]: Very thoughtful consideration of the

student's interests. Make sure all materials are age-
While I recognized that it was important for teachers to be able to recognize the skills,

standards, and concepts that their students struggle with, I feel that I learned much more from

this assignment than I originally anticipated. In my Practicum Experience, I had an experienced Commented [7]: That is the key!

mentor teacher that was able to recognize the errors that students made, therefore I never truly

had to think about why the students may have been having errors; I focused more on what

students were getting wrong, and correcting that on their papers and assignment. However

important to point out to students where their errors are, I feel like I really began exploring the

why and how meaning that I have been able to think in both terms of a student as well as a

teacher. Being able to recognize students’ errors has, in my opinion, given me the tools to think

and reflect on how my lesson is taught and how it could be improved upon so I am better able to

meet the needs of the students. Additionally, I feel that by thinking through the problem with the

eyes of a student, I am able to better determine areas where all students may struggle, rather than

those identified with special needs. By having this skills to recognize potential grey areas and Commented [8]: That is true!

gaps in understanding, I feel that when I have my own classroom, I will better be able to adjust

and adapt my teaching style and to differentiate my curriculum to best meet the needs of the all

of the students in my class, and to best meet fill the gaps that they have.