Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

1 Bump

How to get a child to show his work in math?

My eleven year old digs in his heels when told to show his work. Especially if it involves long division. He says there's no point because we have calculators. I've told him that showing his work shows the teacher what he knows and what he doesn't; it makes no impression.

Any brilliant suggestions?

Answer Question

Asked by gdiamante at 5:27 PM on Aug. 30, 2010 in

Level 37 (95,167 Credits)
Answers (11)
  • Take the calculator away! Don't even give him access to one.

    Answer by specialwingz at 5:29 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

  • If he is 11 it's between him and the teacher.


    Answer by Gailll at 5:32 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

  • No suggestions here... that was my downfall with math in school. I did everything in my head (and not always the way I was "supposed" to do it) and I never got credit for anything because I thought it was stupid to write out how I got the answer... isn't the fact that I got the answer more important? So, sorry... wish I could help! I still wouldn't write out long division... !

    Answer by LeanneC at 5:33 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

  • Make him. Work is not done until work is shown- take away _____ (computer, TV, food... whatever he can't live without... until he does it to your satisfaction. It helps having them do long division on graph paper, with one digit per square- helps them keep everything lined up. I've been teaching for 27 years- homeschooled my seven kids through calculus, plus taught special ed in my previous life- and EVERY kid needs to learn to show work or they fall apart when they start algebra! Something about showing work teaches them logical steps.

    -a Dictator Mom

    Answer by mamahobbit at 5:35 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

  • I should have mentioned... He has Aspergers and doesn't react the way most kids would to punishments. And while I thoroughly believe in being a "dictator mom" (I'm not doing it right if I'm not the meanest mommy in the world), I'm trying to find a way to make it make sense to him that this stuff should be done the way the teacher wants; otherwise I will end up with him on bread and water all year long and he will just hate math. NOT the end result I'm aiming for. It took me 35 years to find value in algebra; I want him to do better!

    I have taken the calculator away already.

    I do like the graph paper idea! One of the issues (besides the fact that he does things in his head anyway) is his handwriting. I know we have graph paper at home, so well start using that.

    Comment by gdiamante (original poster) at 5:44 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

  • Take the calculator away. Some teachers don't even give credit in our schools for a problem with the correct answer if the student doesn't show their work.

    Answer by marchar2002 at 8:59 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

  • Wanted to add that I have actually told my kids, "Technology is fine but you don't have to have it." If they can't live without the technology, they shouldn't have it anyway.

    Answer by marchar2002 at 9:00 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

  • mamahobbitt: you are wrong. Both my son and brother do Algebra in their heads with NO problems. And my brother scored a 99% on the military entrance exam..not an easy thing to do.

    OP: I suggest taking the calculator away and letting your son deal with the consequences with the teacher. The ONLY reason my son did bad in prealgebra was because the teacher took points away because he didn't show his work and the teacher thought he was cheating, even though he did the work in front of the teacher. He went to summer school and proved to the teacher that he could do the algebra in his head and ended up with a 98%.

    Answer by tyfry7496 at 9:24 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

  • Thanks, marchar. As I've said... the calculator is already gone. But that is only making him dig in deeper. I don't want him doing the work because he's given up, as that will not foster a liking for math. It's a subject he's actually naturally good at; asking him to explain how he got a correct answer is kind of like asking a writer where they get their ideas.

    I've been searching online and see people complaining about the "show your work" rule. There's actually a Facebook group dedicated to complaining about it! But all I find are complaints, not strategies, and a strategy is what I'm trying to come up with. One that offers a carrot as well as a stick.

    Comment by gdiamante (original poster) at 9:25 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

  • What if you explained that the teacher can't help him identify what might have gone wrong if she doesn't know how he got to the answer? My son (who is younger, but the principle is similar) was doing various advanced math skills in his head going into 2nd grade last year. He didn't see why he had to show his work - it just seemed like a silly waste of his time. He does not have Aspergers BUT he can dig himself in and refuse to untrench himself until he gets a decent reason that appeals to his logic. We found two, for him - first was that he was going to lose points off his grade for not showing his work even if he had the right answer. no work shown, no credit. For a kid that was determined to get as many perfect papers as he could, that was HUGE. The other was back to our talk about how we learn from our mistakes - but we can't learn from them if we can't retrace how we got from Point A to Point B. Find his hot button!

    Answer by ldmrmom at 11:20 PM on Aug. 30, 2010

Join CafeMom now to contribute your answer and become part of our community. It's free and takes just a minute.