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Mathematics Opinion

Don’t Tell Students to Show Their Work--Make Them!

By David Ginsburg — September 27, 2010 1 min read

Are you constantly on students to show their work in math (or other) classes, but to no avail? If so, try giving them the answers up front--for class work, homework, even a test or two. Really, what better way to stress the problem-solving process than to limit an activity to that process?! Do this, and you’ll really be messing with kids at first--especially if, like many of my students, they care more about getting work done than getting it done right. What are these students to do when the directions for an assignment are, “Show, prove, or explain why the given answer is correct,” and they can’t get it done without getting it done right?

Talk about motivating students to show their work--I never saw kids be more thorough than they were on assignments where I provided the answers. But that’s not all. The process of working backward from the answer also improves students’ grasp and retention of the material. So even when your students do show their work on traditional (i.e., answers withheld) assignments, you’ll still want to mix in assignments where you include the answers.

Image by Mjak, provided by Dreamstime license

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