The Correct Way to Show Your Work – Problem, Work and Solution

This is Day 6 of 31 Days of Math Learning Success. Follow all the days here and check out others that are writing for 31 days here.

Showing your work is not about showing what someone else wants - it's about setting yourself up for study success.Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.
~Michael J. Fox

There’s this big push for students to show their work.

But why we push this is often misunderstood.

“It’s so you can I can see your thinking,” some grownups say.

“It’s so you can see your thinking” others will say.

But the real reason you show your work is to support your own learning.

What exactly should you show?

There are three parts to showing your work:

  1. The problem
  2. The work
  3. The results

The problem includes any information you start with. If it’s a problem from a book or worksheet, you copy the problem.

If it’s a problem in real life, you write down everything you know.

The work is everything you do on paper. There is no scratch work. And there is no erasing. Everything goes in the space for work.

And you use as much space as you need.

The results typically means the answer or answers. But it’s also anything you discover along the way.

For example, sometimes you work hard and you just can’t seem to come up with an answer you’re happy with. In the results part you might write:

“I thought I was doing this right, but I don’t feel comfortable with either of these answers.”

They are a family, so keep them together!

You wouldn’t separate a mom from her kids, so don’t just write the answers.

You wouldn’t make a dad live somewhere else, so don’t forget to include the problem.

And you would never keep the kids in a totally different place – so keep all the work with the mom and dad (the problem and results).

Don’t leave anyone behind. Keep the family together.

But really, is all that necessary?

Suppose you want to study for a test. If you take your work home to study, you have everything you need. You have the problem in its original form. You have all your thinking (the work) that you did to come to your answer. And you have your answer and any reflections on the answers.

You don’t need your book or anything else. You’re ready to study!

And if your teacher should say, “Hey, this is an open notebook test,” well, all your homework has everything you’ll need to be successful!

Show your work – all of it.

So make sure you show your work – the whole family of work. Don’t leave anyone behind.


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