Tuesday, January 26, 2016



I’m not sure that this is activity really falls into the category of questioning, but it is one of my favorite activities to foster amazing conversations.  I got the idea from Nora Oswald (@NoraOswald).  She calls the activity bucket o’lies.  I don’t have buckets, so I call it box o’lies.  

Here is one sample set of questions

Basically, students read through a collection of worked out problems.  Some have been done correctly, others have common mistakes.  Students determine which ones are correct and which ones are not.  Then they correct the incorrect problems.

As students work through problems, they see the mistakes that they make themselves and think that an incorrect problem is actually correct.  Then, a group-mate points out the mistake (hopefully) and they have a good conversation about what makes each step right or wrong.  Even if a group-mate does not point out the mistake, they will figure it out during the check step of each problem.  I try to do this activity once per unit.  The kids seem to learn and remember the common mistakes more by doing this activity than my warning them about the mistakes during a lecture.

As one more safety net for making sure students do not mistakenly think that incorrect problems are correct, I usually give them the number or correct and incorrect problems during the last 10 minutes of the work session.

The one thing that I would like to do to make this better is to have actual student work.  I often grade quizzes or classwork and wish that I had made photo copies before I started writing feedback on the papers.  You just don’t usually know what the best mistakes are going to be before you start correcting the work.

As an added bonus, students almost always comment on how hard it is to find the mistakes and that they appreciate my grading their quizzes.


  1. Love this. I have done bucket of lies at Halloween time with linear and I use plastic pumpkins as my bucket. I also do it my own handwriting and tell them I am the student and they are the teacher. They need to find the error, correct it, give it a grade, and provide feedback. Turns out they are hard graders!

  2. ooooh, I like the idea of asking them to give a grade based on how well the 'student' understood the problem. I'll add that in the future!

  3. I've done "mistake analysis" activities, but not like this. I like the idea of pulling the problem out of a bucket, box, or even a hat. Thanks!

    1. I like that part too. Seeing the questions one at a time can be less overwhelming. I also like having correct responses mixed in.