Show your working out!
Is it time to stop our moaning?
There are many hang ups that both teachers and students have over presentation, with many students determined to miss out the direction of how they got from A to B. I worry without a sat nav would they ever survive? They refuse no matter how many times we countlessly nag them to “Show thier your out” to actually show their working out. Staff are fed up of saying it and students are fed up of hearing it.
Is it time we remarketed and branded this differently? Companies will often tweak their brand and marketing campaigns to increase their popularity and market standing. Take the old marathon chocolate bar that is now a snicker or how opal fruits became starbursts. Brands were changed to gain uniformity around the world, alongside the shock publicity increasing sales and many other reasons.
Another more recent example is Kentucky Fried Chicken changing its name to KFC and McDonalds recent pursuit of looking healthy by serving salads and simulating a fast food version of Starbucks. The point is this has all been done due to market trends towards a healthy lifestyle. Are the market trends telling us it’s time to rebrand ‘show your working out’?
It is vitally important our students can communicate mathematics fluently, this is a non-negotiable. However the words ‘show your working out’ often can cause a small but continual conflict between yourself and a student. As well as some students never seeming to understand just what we mean by these words, or rather they don’t seem to know what it means anymore.
I was lucky enough to visit one of our Primary Schools earlier this academic year and saw some books of my current year 7 class from when they were in year 6. I was in awe! All the equal signs were lined up, they had used DUMTUS* and all working out was clearly shown. I loved coming back to school the next day and saying no excuses I’ve seen your books. If students can achieve this in Primary why are they forgetting it in Secondary?
(*DUMTUS – Date, Underline, Miss a line, Title, Underline and Start – learnt last night in maths chat thank you luke @bettermaths)
I've raised my expectations since this visit ten fold but have found my students with the new maths conncept respond well to clear modelling and coaching. Their books have become a necessity through open book mini tests allowing the students to get used to both examination questions and silence but with a comfort blanket of their book. This is something as a faculty we introduced to try and teach students how useful their books can be. Since then we have had students creating indexes and glossaries in their books off their own accord to keep themselves organised. The students who have made poorer notes have started to see the impact and difference good notes and clear working out can make to a person’s result on a test.
I no longer write in books 'this needs context' or 'show your working out'. I do however model answers on the board as well as discussing and annotating with students errors, potholes and misconceptions they might fall for. We annotate where we might get the marks from and then model our thinking throughout our books by making these notes. Idealistic right? Since doing this I have seen an increase in results and quality of written work in student’s books but more importantly an increase in ownership of their books as a valuable resource. It’s a slow process but I think and hope I am starting to see a speckle of light at the end of a very long tunnel.
The expectations are high but they should be. I’m interested to hear how other people have tackled presentation issues within their classes. Feel free to comment below. I know I still have a long way to go with my classes.