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Avoid Silly Careless Mistakes

in Math

As parents, one of the most frustrating things is seeing your child make silly careless mistakes, especially when it happens in a Math exam. Isn’t it such a shame that your child has understood the concept but lost marks because they copied a wrong number or missed reading a keyword in the question? If you’ve been looking for ways to help your careless child improve, look no further!

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of careless mistakes that children make when they are solving Math questions. We’ll also share some tips on how to prevent your child from making them. With a better understanding of these, you’ll be more informed to help your child eliminate these careless mistakes and not lose unnecessary marks again.

The common careless mistakes that children make when they are attempting Math questions can be broadly categorized into the following 3 types:

Let’s take a closer look at these one by one.

Misinterpretations of the Question

Misinterpreting the question can mean many things. Sometimes, children may misread names, numbers or the units of measurements that are given in the question. Sometimes, they may misunderstand what the question is asking for.

Here’s an Example of a Careless Interpretation Mistake:

Why does Your Child Make These Silly Interpretation Mistakes?

Usually, this happens as a result of impatience and complacency.

Most children tend to do things in a hurry. They have this simple belief that the faster they finish their work, the faster they can spend time doing the things they like.

When your child starts scanning the Math question instead of reading it, they might skip a word or two, and end up with an incomplete/naive understanding of the question.

If this happens during your child’s usual Math practice, it may turn into a bad habit over time. If the same thing happens during an exam, it might cost your child unnecessary marks.  

What part does complacency play then? Children being children, they tend to get overly excited when they see familiar words. When that happens, your child might make the dangerous assumption that the questions are of the same type and miss the subtle differences or the cunning twists that they contain.

How do We Get Rid of this kind of Math Mistakes?

Here are a few ways to help your child avoid making such careless Math mistakes:

  • Explain to your child that there is no point rushing through their work and getting them wrong. Tell them that slowing down to solve each question carefully can save them time instead. Doing this will help them understand how being patient is better in the long run.
  • Encourage your child to read every word of the question when they are problem-solving to prevent missing out on any important information. Get them to read the Math question aloud before attempting the question so that they are more sensitive to the words of the question.
  • To make sure that your child doesn’t miss out on important details, teach them how to highlight or circle all the keywords in the question.
  • Teach your child to stay humble and treat every question as an equally dangerous foe. This prevents them from jumping to conclusions and helps them to make more accurate judgements as to whether the questions can indeed be solved the same way as other questions that they have done before.

Transfer Errors

“Copy also can copy wrongly?” Yes, that’s what we’re talking about – transfer errors. These can occur at various stages – when your child is copying numbers from a question into their workings, when they are copying their answers from one step to another step of their workings, or  when they are copying their final answer into the answer part of the question.

Here’s an Example of a Transfer Error:

Why does Your Child Make Transfer Errors?

Such careless mistakes stems from a lack of focus, untidiness and overconfidence.

If your child is trying to solve Math questions with thoughts of play in their mind, they get distracted, and this leaves room for careless mistakes.

Having messy handwriting or neglecting to label diagrams/workings properly is another culprit. When your child scribbles, the “3” they wrote for a step may turn into a “5” in another and they might end up carrying a mistake forward and getting the final answer wrong.

As for overconfidence, some children have the bad habit of reading the question only once and assuming that they remember all the important details without referring back to it again. This lack of constant reference causes your child to work under false assumptions and is the root of potential mistakes to occur.

How do We Help Our Children to Prevent Transfer Errors?

Here are a few ways of how not to make these careless mistakes:

  • Create a conducive environment for your child to concentrate when they are doing work. Help them cut down on distractions such as loud music and mobile phones.
  • Teach your child the importance of writing neatly and how to present their answers in a systematic way, labelling the purpose of each step along the way. This helps them keep track of their thoughts easily and focus better on the Math problem at hand. If need be, give your child some writing practices to improve their psychomotor skills in writing.
  • To prevent carrying the wrong answer forward, teach your child to circle the answer in each step so that it stands out. This helps your child to check that they have used the right number when working out each step.
  • Instil the mindset in your child that they are wrong until they have checked. Remind them to keep referring to the numbers in the question and the answers that they have in each step as they are working on the question.


It sounds like what it is and happens when a wrong calculation is made.

Here’s an Example of a Miscalculation Error:

Why does Your Child Make Miscalculation Mistakes?

These mistakes can happen because of wrong buttons pressed on the calculator or an over-reliance on mental calculation.

Pressing the wrong buttons is a technical error and happens when your child is too quick in punching in the figures that they are working in.

As for mental calculations, many children have the misconception that it is faster and less troublesome. Hence, they choose to combine a few steps in their mind and avoid writing all the mini-steps of their workings. This increases their chances of making careless mistakes and affects their accuracy and correctness in their calculations.

How do We Help Our Children Reduce Miscalculations?

Here are a few ways to help your child improve in this area:

  • Advise your child to estimate their answers before using the calculator. This will help them to gauge if the answers that they obtained from the calculator are accurate.
  • Teach your child that skipping a few steps does not equate to thinking in fewer steps. In fact, it requires much more focus and effort.
  • To improve the accuracy of your child’s answers, encourage them to work out every step on paper. This helps them keep track of their thoughts and breaks the calculations into smaller, more manageable chunks.

In conclusion,

More often that not, careless mistakes are more about attitude and habits than pure technical skills. By inculcating the right attitude, we can help our children reduce the careless mistakes that might at first seem impossible to get rid of.

We hope that the tips we shared have been helpful. Now that you are aware of the factors that contribute to careless mistakes, share them with your child and use the tips to stop them from making those careless Math mistakes ever again!

Are there any other Math mistakes that your child makes which frustrates you? Share them with us in the comments below and let’s see how to solve them together!

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  • Victoria

    Fantastic explanation…hope it would hep my kid get rid of all kinds of careless mistakes she leaves…
    Thanks a lot

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