Error Analysis Math Activities for the Classroom

Error Analysis Math Activities for the Classroom

Have you ever wanted to provide your students with rigorous math activities that would require them to do all of the thinking instead of guessing or waiting for someone else to share the answer?  Yes, me too!

That is why I designed these rigorous and highly engaging math error analysis activities that kids LOVE! My own fifth grader students would ask for these tasks every single day! 

I experienced firsthand how these error analysis activities have turned my math classroom into a critical thinking hub where students independently figure out problems and defend their math thinking

Your students will solve rigorous, standards-aligned problems and decide if they agree or disagree with the solution presented to them. These problems reinforce more than math...they strengthen reading, writing, and debating skills, too! 

And with the super fun agree and disagree cards included, you will see a big increase in participation.

These activities were designed to help you save time planning and provide quality activities to your students at the same time:

  • morning work or bell ringer
  • whole-class math talk/discussion
  • math centers or stations
  • exit tickets
  • small group targeted instruction
  • math partner tasks, independent practice, and reinforcement
  • formal or informal assessments
  • homework, classwork, or test prep

Which grade level do you need?

See what teachers like you are saying below! 

second grade math error analysis

"My students love this and ask for more and more! The whole group discussions were amazing and engaging for all level of students. The deep understanding is great to see and I can't wait to see how far my students will grow."

3rd grade math error analysis

"The students loved these, and they were so good for developing my students critical thinking and reasoning skills! I will definitely continue using these in the future."

4th grade error analysis math

"This is a great resource to use in small groups at the kidney table, or as a whole class projecting it on the screen, or by breaking the whole class into small groups and having them work as teams. I am glad I bought the bundle. I am looking forward to using this in our measurement unit." - Robin

5th grade math error analysis

"Well thought of resource to review all math standards. This can be easily done after teaching each standard or as an end of year review. I am currently using this to review different concepts the last few weeks of schools and students love working together to agree or disagree." - Yolanda

Not sure how to get started? I can help!

Click below to read about why and how to use error analysis in your classroom to grow your students' critical thinking and analysis skills.

how to use math error analysis in the upper elementary classroom

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Error Analysis Math Activities for the Classroom


4 Reasons Why You Need to Use Error Analysis to Teach Math

4 Reasons Why You Need to Use Error Analysis to Teach Math


Do you have some students who rush through their math work, while others seem frozen and unable to even get started? Do you have students who are chatterboxes all day and then when you ask them to speak about mathematical concepts turn to crickets? Do you struggle with students who aren’t engaged and don't see the point of learning? Do you want to help your struggling students but aren’t sure where to begin? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, using error analysis can help turn your math classroom around!

What is error analysis anyway?

Error analysis is a method used by teachers to identify the factual, procedural, or conceptual mistakes commonly made by students in order to provide support where needed. However, it takes on a slightly different meaning when teachers use it as a way to teach mathematics. In this way, students are given a mathematical scenario already solved by one or more fictitious students. The role of your students is to determine which “student,” if any, is correct and identify the errors made by others.

4 Reasons Why You Need to Use Error Analysis to Teach Math

How do students benefit from this approach?

1- Slow Down and Speed Up!

When students are asked to analyze the work of someone else, they can’t just get an answer and move on. They must analyze and reason why an answer is or is not correct. This helps students slow down while using higher-order thinking and reasoning skills. Yes, you’ll still have early finishers, but my students spend more time thinking than rushing when asked not just for an answer but to agree or disagree with someone.


In a similar way, using error analysis can have the opposite effect on some students who might normally freeze up in math. Students who may have no clue how to begin can use the example of someone else’s work as a starting point. They can see how someone else solved the problem first and the steps they took. 

This can provide scaffolding for students who might otherwise feel overwhelmed. Agreeing or disagreeing also takes the pressure off of students who may be afraid to be wrong because it isn’t their own work being analyzed. 

4 Reasons Why You Need to Use Error Analysis to Teach Math

2- Critical Thinking and Vocabulary Rich Dialogue

Many students often know what they are thinking, or how they would approach a problem, but have difficulty expressing their thoughts clearly and concisely. Engaging in written or verbal dialogue can help students to process and really understand the mathematical concepts they are working on. Students must think critically to critique someone else’s work, and they must put themselves in someone else’s place to try to make sense of their thinking.


My students often disagree about whether or why a problem is correct or incorrect at first. They acknowledge that one side is right, so they know they need to both clearly present their own thinking and listen attentively to the critiques of others as each problem is dissected. 


These Agree or Disagree Problems will get your students thinking critically and are the perfect starting point to get your students talking on task. I’ve also included Math Discussion Stems and Questions to jump-start and guide mathematical dialogue.

Grab these free math stems to get started on bringing math dialogue into your classroom!

3- Noticing the Why

While I love a good math talk, this may be my favorite reason to use error analysis to teach math. As students are deciding whether they agree or disagree with someone, I pose a critical thinking thought question:

“What would  happen in real life if someone made this mistake?”

While some scenarios are frivolous and wouldn’t have severe consequences, others do. If an employer makes an error in a paycheck, that can have real and lasting consequences. If a team shows up late for a game because they calculated the time wrong, they might lose a championship.

Students quickly realize that accuracy is important and the impact of making mathematical errors in the real world. I use this to reinforce why we work together, check our work, and persist in making sure work is legible and accurate. Suddenly, my students who couldn’t be bothered to do math are interested and see value in learning what I’m trying so desperately to teach them. 

Knowing the “why” really does matter.

Agree Disagree Cards for Math Problem Solving

4- Targeted Support

This is a bonus for teachers really. 

When you use error analysis to teach math, you get to know your students on a deeper level. My students LOVE using the agree and disagree cards to show their thinking. These simple manipulatives ensure that ALL students are participating, helping me get a grasp of each student's understanding.

When you watch and listen to students as they reason through agreeing or disagreeing, you see beyond the checkbox of whether a student meets a certain standard. When I walk around my classroom and listen to my students’ arguments, I get a deeper sense of what they do understand and the places they are getting stuck. I can target instruction for small groups of students or review a concept with my entire class. I can choose partners strategically and better plan for and support students who are struggling as well as those ready for the next challenge.


Not convinced yet? Click HERE to try them out for FREE in your classroom!

Using error analysis to teach math has helped my students in so many ways, and can help your students, too. Bringing these types of activities into the classroom provides challenge, rigor, and critical thinking...all on standards that you already have to teach. What do you think? Do you Agree or Disagree?

You might be interested in reading:

Looking for more printable and digital critical thinking math activities? Click HERE.

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*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


Winter Descriptive Writing Activity

snowglobe writing project for kids

Winter writing activities are not just for the holiday season

I love using the seasons to engage young writers and get their creative juices flowing! Winter is hands down, my favorite season to practice descriptive writing. 

I introduce descriptive writing during our first narrative unit at the start of the year. During that time we talk about using juicy words, sentence variety, and we also touch on figurative language. These skills are practiced all year long. My favorite project to practice all of these writing techniques and encourage creativity is by tieing together art and writing is with this winter snowglobe descriptive writing.

Open up your art closet and grab construction paper and glitter (yes, glitter), and get ready to be impressed with the writing that your students produce from this writing project.

snow globe writing project and ideas for upper elementary

The concept of this project is simple! 

After a few descriptive writing lessons that focus on structure, word choice, and figurative language students will:

  1. Create a unique art project: a winter scene in a snowglobe.
  2. Brainstorm descriptive language and ideas
  3. Write winter-themed figurative language to include in their paragraph
  4. Write a descriptive paragraph about their winter snowglobe scene

This project is a lot of fun and truly helps students grow as writers. I love doing it each year and displaying their art and writing pieces all winter long! These tips will get you started.

Kick It off With a Picture Book

winter themed picture books for upper elementary

I love using picture books whenever I can in the classroom. There are two must-read picture books that I love to read before we do this writing project. They are great to refer back to when we begin writing our descriptive snow globes.

Brave Irene written by William Steig

This book is a must-read mentor text for so many different lessons including descriptive writing. The book tells the story of young Irene who sets off in a blizzard to make a delivery for her mother, a dressmaker who is too sick to go. Filled with amazing word choice and figurative language this book will be an instant favorite for you and your students. Dissect this book and list out all of the writing techniques that you find along with your students and write them on chart paper. This list will serve as a great reminder of techniques that students can use while they write their snow globe descriptions.

The Snow Globe Family written by Jane O'Connor

This is a fun read about a family that lives in a snow globe. The illustrations are a great model to show students how to create a full winter scene in the snow globes they create for this project. After reading this book have the students reflect on the activities that took place during winter in the story and then brainstorm different winter activities and winter scenes they can include in the snow globes that they create.

Get into the Spirit of the Season

Help students to really get into the season of winter by bundling up and going outside for a winter walk! While on the walk have students take a clipboard and pencil so that they can jot down all of the winter elements that they observe. Have them write descriptively as they take notes about the setting around them. Before you head outside give students some examples of what you are looking for. 

Not sure where to start, try these:

  • wind biting at your face (personification)
  • cool, crisp, cold air blowing (alliteration)
  • snow as soft as a blanket (metaphor)
  • list of descriptions using the five senses

Don't want to head outside? Try watching this video to get into the cold season of winter! While this collection is filled with facts they will still get your students in the mood to write descriptively about winter and help them add a variety of winter elements to their snow globes.

Make Some Art: Snowglobe Art Project

winter snow globe writing project and art project display idea

Now the fun begins!

This descriptive writing project was created to help my students practice writing with descriptions to improve their narrative writing pieces. 

My favorite part about this activity is the art project involved. You can have students decorate the snow globe worksheet template that is included in this pack, or you can have students create their snow globes with tracers and construction paper. 

Be sure to make several circle tracers on cardstock or thick paper for students to use. Then have students use the tracers to make the large circle of the snowglobe. I usually have students use light blue paper or light gray paper to really set the winter scene. Then students can cut out a base for the snowglobe. You can make a tracer for this shape as well, or you can instruct students to cut out rectangles. After they have the two pieces cut, have them glue them together.

Make sure students have brainstormed one focused scene that they will use for the snowglobe before they draw.  This will prevent students from redoing their snowglobes over and over. Invite students to add as much detail to their illustrations as possible. The more that they create in art, the more they have to write about in their pieces.

If you are feeling daring, like I always am, add some glitter and sparkle to the globes. This will help students craft similes and metaphors about the weather in their snow globes.


Teach the Writing Genre

descriptive writing anchor charts

When it comes to this project, I always make sure to teach the elements of descriptive writing before we begin any art or writing. We spend a lot of time discussing how descriptive writing plays an important part in narrative pieces. 

While teaching this genre, I always make sure to focus on:

  • what descriptive writing is
  • the descriptive writing structure
  • how to show the reader and not tell the reader through the use of descriptive language
  • the audience they are writing to with descriptive writing
  • teaching figurative language and juicy words

Next week I will be sharing more specific tips to help you teach descriptive writing in your classroom.

For now, you can grab the student descriptive writing reference page for FREE below to help students understand this genre. The reference guide will be sent to your email.

I love this winter writing activity and have watched students enjoy creating and writing year after year! This project will hook all of your writers, including struggling writers. The art project coupled with their descriptive writing pieces makes a beautiful bulletin board display for the entire season of winter!

snow globe writing project and bulletin board display for upper elementary


Grab the Winter Wonderland Project complete with everything you need, including bulletin board letters to create this project in your own classroom.

You might be interested in reading:

Looking for more high-interest winter activities for your classroom like this differentiated reading pack?
See more HERE.

reading activities for winter for upper elementary

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snow globe writing project for kids

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)

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