Thursday, May 20, 2010


Had an interesting moment in tutoring a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd bring this up here.

The answers in the back of the book are there so you can check your work, NOT so you can just copy the answers!

A very bright student that I've been working with for quite some time admitted that she was copying the answers for the odd problems.

This is why teachers want to see your work, not just your answers!

This, to me, seems to go hand-in-hand with students wanting to only write down the answers and not write down their work.

When you're in elementary school, the math problems are largely calculations, and for that, teachers want you to write your answers. There's not a lot of different ways to arrive at the answer to 2 x 3 or 4 + 1. We want those answers to be automatic. I see this calculation, I get that answer. Fast, simple.

Students don't realize that there really is a reason for that. We need you to remember these calculations and math rules as if they were second nature to you before you progress to Algebra and beyond. Those skills must be mastered, not just learned, or you will struggle in Algebra.

Once you start doing Pre-Algebra (which is essentially "preparation for Algebra"), you need to actually work through the problems, step-by-step. You need to learn the process, and be able to reproduce the process for other problems. Copy the process from your book or from your notes.

The purpose of homework is to give the student practice working through problems. If the student doesn't practice the problems, the student will not do well on the test.

Now, I'll admit, I've known students that were so brilliant, they didn't need to do much, if any, homework. But if you've hired a tutor to help bring up your grades, you aren't one of them.

If you don't get the same answer as the back of the book, then that means you haven't followed the process exactly, or you've missed a calculation. At this point, you can work through the problem again and see if you can find your own mistake. Or, you can talk to someone (your teacher, a friend from class, a tutor) to help you.

But, please, don't just copy the answer from the back of the book. You really are only cheating yourself!

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