Friday, March 8, 2013

Showing Your Work

I may have had a breakthrough with my class.  After months of repeating "show your work" and "show me all of your thinking," I had a FULL CLASS put their thinking on paper today! Hooray!

On Fridays, we add test prep to our math block.  We reviewed how to find equivalent fractions and I modeled how I eliminated wrong answer choices by showing the math next to each choice.  When I released the kiddos to their independent work, this was what I saw:

Um, what?!  I'm smiling RIGHT NOW looking at this paper again!

And perhaps whipping my phone out to grab a picture of her work convinced her classmates that justifying our answers is awesome, because I found a lot of kids with math all over their papers.

Boom.  Justifying.  LOVE IT!

One more, just for good measure.

Literally (and I'm a teacher, so you know I take that word seriously) every student was showing their thinking like this today.

Now aside from it being awesome that they did what I asked them to, there is a ton of value in their ideas being scrawled across the page.  Here are a few reasons why I love showing some work or thinking for each of the answer choices:

1.)  It makes multiple choice practice a bit more rigorous.  By justifying why choices are wrong, they have to think critically.  It helps them develop their reasoning skills when they can give reasons why an answer is incorrect.

2.)  It makes them savvier test takers.  This may not be the ultimate goal, but I think students should know as much as is developmentally appropriate about testing and test creation. They should know how to use process of elimination and they should understand that there are "distractors" for all test items.

3.)  It immediately identifies students who are on the wrong track.
While this student was able to do some justifying for the first item, he ran into a road block for the second item.  You can see that he doesn't really understand what the question is asking him, so he tries out some reasoning, but his strategies do not result in an answer.

4.)  It slows them down. Throughout the years, I've found the vast majority of students will race through a math test, even THE test and complete it with plenty of time to spare.  And while some may flip through the booklet when they are done, they aren't really checking their work.  They may end up taking longer to complete the test, but they weren't using all of those extra minutes at the end anyway!

My kids are taking a diagnostic test on Monday, so I'm definitely going to talk to them about showing their thinking and paying attention to the amount of time they have left!

Tell me, how much work do you ask your students to show? 


  1. I ask my students to show everything. They get a point for each step that they complete.


    A Basket Full of Apples

  2. Omg I wish! I can have at least 1/4 of my class to show work. I ask them to show work for everything but they all seem to be human calculators.

    Upper Grade Reading

  3. Just found your blog through TBTS and facebook. That student work looks great! Congrats.

    Looking From Third to Fourth