Careless Errors: How To Fix Them Without Fighting

shutterstock_252865087“How do I help my child fix careless errors they made in their work?” is a question we probably get every day.

Do you let the mistake slide and have the teacher correct it? Do you fix it for your child so their homework is marked 100%? Or, do you show your child why the mistake was made in the first place?

When you remind your child not to make these mistakes and they continue making them, you run the risk of spending all night arguing with your child.

Here are 3 common situations regarding careless errors and how you can help students correct them without causing an argument.


  1. My son came home with a math test where he didn’t do as well as he had before and I saw that he made lots of very careless, silly errors. How can I let him know to double check his work once he’s finished, without sounding like I’m being negative or giving him a hard time?

Getting kids to check their work is really hard work! “Checking their work” can feel very overwhelming. And frankly, that’s why kids don’t do it, especially with homework. If your child’s homework is done and you say, “Now, go back and check your work,” what you’ll typically hear is “Yep, I already did that,” when you know that it’s nearly impossible that they went through every answer in such a short period of time. In testing situations, when teachers remind their students to review their work, this overture is rarely successful. Kids simply don’t have the mental fortitude to review every last answer on the test.

So, what can you do?pic-1

Encourage your child to highlight or circle the problems that are hard for them as they complete their homework. Have them go back and check or redo only the problems that are circled or highlighted. This reduces the amount of checking they need to do and makes the task more approachable.


  1. What can you do about the child who rushes through homework and puts little attention to detail in their work?

Ah, the rusher! This trait is really common, especially for younger kids. They don’t really see the value of homework. They will often slap down a few answers and call it a day because getting outside and playing with friends or jumping onto the X-box is far more exciting than homework.

If that is what’s happening in your house and it’s a chronic problem, consider Designated Homework Time.

Designated Homework Time is based on the principle that homework should take about 10 minutes per grade level. If you have a third grader and he’s doing homework in about seven minutes flat on a regular basis, tell him, “You know what? Your homework should be taking about 30 minutes so I’m going to set the timer for 30 minutes. I want you to sit here and do work for 30 minutes. If you really don’t have any homework (which is hardly ever the case, by the way) or you’re finished, you can read for pleasure or get ahead on an assignment.” By encouraging your child to use that whole half hour, you’re less likely to fight battles over rushing through assignments. Kids are more likely to stay a little bit more focused and spend an adequate amount of time on each problem instead of merely doing the work hastily.


  1. My daughter is constantly making careless errors in math. When she has a problem with long division, I say, “Check every long division problem by multiplying and do it after every single problem.” Would it be less overwhelming to remind her problem by problem or does that add too much time?

Certainly, there are some tasks in math that can be checked very easily. For example, a long division problem can be checked by multiplication. That’s a really easy way to find an incorrect answer. The idea of checking the problem right after as opposed to the end is a good one because waiting until the end to check work feels very, very overwhelming for kids. But most kids are not that diligent and when left on their own they will not take the time to review every last answer.

shutterstock_142812715If your daughter comes home with an assignment or a test with lots of careless errors, you can ask her, “What might you do differently next time?” Always look to the future. Don’t ask questions that require her to think about the past such as “What did you do wrong?” or “Why didn’t you check your work?” To kids, asking them to reflect on the past often feels punitive. I also like the question, “Knowing what you know now, what changes would you make on the next test?”

For homework, you can make checking work a game. Say to your child, “I wonder if you can check five problems on this worksheet. For each one, give yourself a tally mark and see if you can get to five.” Giving kids a goal for how many problems that they can check on their own makes something arduous a little easier.