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Friend’s 9 year-old nephew was asked to show his work or to describe how he got his answer. His reply: “just use my brain” and drew this to show his work.

Friend’s 9 year-old nephew was asked to show his work or to describe how he got his answer. His reply: “just use my brain” and drew this to show his work.

Friend’s 9 year-old nephew was asked to show his work or to describe how he got his answer. His reply: “just use my brain” and drew this to show his work.

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30 Comments
  1. I always felt a better question/way to phrase this would be: If you had to teach someone who didn’t know how to solve this problem, how would you do it? Or something like that. It sounds dumb when I read it back but you get the idea

  2. I had a hard time in math as a kid because I was doing it all mentally and getting correct answers, but they wanted me to show my work which i just couldn’t figure out how I got it.

    Today kids are doing core math, which is very similar to how I was getting the answer. I hate having to explain or help them because they can figure out the answer faster than doing all of the steps.

  3. So here is why it is important that you show your work (especially showing a model or non-linguistic representation):

    1. Teachers need to make sure you actually understand the concept. You getting the answer correct does not show that you understand the concept. Sometimes it simply shows you have memorized some steps. Sometimes you just luck into it.

    2. When you inevitably get the answers wrong, if you have no work then the teachers have no idea how to help you or where the disconnect lies.

    3. Making students write out their process forces them to synthesize and analyze their work. We know this helps students to learn and improve.

    4. If you truly understand how something works and how you got your answer, you are able to explain it. This is a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people, who assume they understand how something works simply because they have memorized a few steps.

    A fantastic example of this that I use often is addition and subtraction in systems other than base 10. If you truly understood what you were doing with addition and subtraction, then when I ask something like what is 3 hours and 10 minutes take away 2 hours and 30 minutes, you shouldn’t have any issues breaking down that 3 hours into 2 hours and 60 minutes. Unfortunately many students who simply learned a process attempt to ‘cross out the 3 and carry a 1’ because they have no idea what they are actually doing.

  4. This is the way my mind worked as well. Encourage him to be able to explain himself. It is great to understand the process but it is powerful to be able to explain it. I am still realizing this at 50+.

  5. Draw a model of your math. You mean an equation? Maybe you need to draw 9 models and count their…

  6. I hated doing this as a kid. I just wrote down how I solved it, showed you all the steps and you still want more. I don’t have anymore to give you. 1+1=2 that’s all you should need.

  7. Synesthete here. I rarely got an incorrect answer in math. I eventually stopped bringing my calculator. My teacher in 6th grade saw this as suspicious and wanted me to show my work. The issue is… I saw numbers as colors. Orange times green equals pink. Showing my work absolutely locked me out. My work was not only impossible to show, but also impossible to explain without sounding insane. In many jobs I’ve had now, I quickly calculate discounts and tax rates on large purchases and am almost always within a quarter or so, so the foundation is there. But Showing work is NOT an option for me.

  8. As someone who could do algebra in my head, I hated it every time the test asked to show our work.

  9. I used to do this all the time as a lot of the times the questions were just super basic/elementary and all I would have to do to solve is read the question to myself and the (easy af) answer would come to me. I still got the ‘explain your reasoning’ portion wrong more times than not because of little doodles exactly like this. it used to drive me crazy i mean this was 20 years ago but thinking on it now it still does. i am sorry i was just THAT good. NOT! lol

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