Friday, October 09, 2009

Show your work

On the way to Calgary last week Noah was doing some math work. He was in a good mood and things were going well. He finds his current textbook (MathPower9) to be okay for the most part. It's rife with practice exercises, most of which we skip, but they're there in case he stalls for a bit. The math is logically presented and there's a fair bit of challenge. Much of it is review for Noah, but he's enjoying being systematic with his math work and filling his gaps.

But the textbook is made for classroom use and it's got a fair number of silly "working with a group" and "learning to solve problems together" activity sidebars. We normally ignore all the ancillary stuff.

So in the middle of one of these "learning to solve problems" pages Noah pulled out an puzzle problem to solve algebraically ... a number which, if thirteen is added to it and the result cubed and divided by three will equal half of itself times seventeen, or something like that. He formulated the algebraic equation, solved the problem and that was that.

And then he noticed the guidance preceding the actual problem, which said "formulate a strategy, test your strategy, evaluate the results, revise your strategy" and asked students to "create a flow chart to show your problem-solving process."

He quickly scrawled a flowchart in his notebook as a parody of the approach. It went like this:

which I thought showed off Noah's sense of humour and general-purpose mocking skills very nicely indeed. "I got the right answer. Isn't that enough?"


  1. I love it! Especially the flow chart. As an intuitive learner, I was always so frustrated by all those stupid "show your work" demands when I knew I had the correct answer and I knew I'd gotten there by a perfectly reasonable route.

  2. Andrew is totally like this, too! He'll solve several steps in his head, write the answer and be done with the question. Great for him - not so great for me when he needs help with something! lol!

  3. Not the "Show your work"!
    I still to this day have challenges showing my work. I am with Noah - isn't the right answer the most important thing?


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