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  1. #1

    Default Difficulty showing math work

    Difficulty showing math work
    For years, I have been trying to get DS to show his work when he is completing math problems. It seems to elude him. I model precisely how I want it laid out... and he cant seem to manage it.

    Is this organization something that comes with age? Am I being too impatient expecting him to organize his mathwork on paper?
    Singapore gives plenty of workspace for each problem, but he still will jot down division problems in the margins, on scrap paper, etc... everywhere but the space provided.
    When he works out problems on notebook paper, he seems to ignore my requests for organization. I request: Number each problem, so we can see where you make a mistake, line them up and keep them organized. Put the page number at the top of the page.

    What I get is this, on some random page taken from his math notebook. (Yes, he will sometimes make a multiplication table, even though he has them memorized.)
    image.jpeg

    Is this typical for a 10yo? Do I need to regroup and teach organization? (Nagging and reminders and modeling havent worked so far.) We are starting on with Algebra, (y=mx + b variety), so showing work and steps is becoming more critical.
    Any suggestions, or Wisdom From The Elders?

    TIA!
    Homeschooling DS11, DS5.

    Atheist.

    My spelling and typing are fine, its my keyboard that doesnt cooperate.

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  3. #2

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    Just a guess here. Is he worried about the work on the Singapore page looking perfect? My son at that age would often do work in his head or elsewhere and only put the answer in the space provided. It's like he didn't want the what he thought "messy" thought process on the page.

    As to how to get him to show his work, all I can offer it to continue to request it and model how it's done. This will take time and effort on your part, but maybe for a few lessons you might want to write in a page of his notebook, divide it into areas in which to show the work, and actually show parts of the work and he has to fill in the blanks, so to speak. In a worst case scenario, I used to tell my son I wouldn't even look at his math unless he showed his work. It worked---but only a few times.

    For a while I didn't stress about it because my son liked to do his math while physically near to me, even if I was working in the kitchen, for example. That's because he talks his way through math as he's doing the problem. So I listened and could tell what he was thinking, and where and when he was getting off track. (He STILL calls me once a week from college, partly to just check in, but mostly to discuss math problems he's stuck on. I mostly just say "yes," "uh huh" and he ends up solving them anyway.)

    Eventually, he reached a level of math where he couldn't keep all the steps in his head or on scratch paper w/o getting lost. That, and he became accountable to someone other than me (dual credit math classes starting as a freshman).

    This is a tough one, Alexsmom. I'll thunk on it some more, and if I can think of something I'll let you know.
    Carol

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years

    Daughter (21), a University of Iowa junior triple majoring in English with Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's & Sexuality Studies

    Son (19), a Purdue University sophomore majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, and history

  4. #3
    Senior Member Evolved Deli76's Avatar
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    Dd does the same thing. Im sorry I dont have any suggestions. Ill be following this thread carefully.
    Bobo 13 yrs old - marches to the beat of her own drum, driven, out going and loud, yet she loves nature
    Booger Boy 21 yrs old - quiet, self assured, confident and laying his own path

    umbers cucumbers!!!!

  5. #4

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    Are you sure it is important? ... and .... Does he prefer visual or auditory learning/processing?

    I (a grown-up, good at math, and usually quite organized) still scribble all over all available surfaces when I do some kinds of computations, like tax returns. It does not seem to impede my thought process.
    mom to 3 girls: DD9, DD8, DD5

  6. #5

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    I think it could be the age.
    My son just started showing his work recently - at age 12.
    I think part of it was he was proud that he could 'do it in his head' and didn't see the benefit of showing the steps. He also liked to write a little as possible - in math or anything else.

    Last week he did a bit of math and Wordly Wise where he had to answer questions after reading a passage. He showed his work for the math (neatly!) and wrote complete, legible, sentences and thoughts for the WW. I was so surprised (about the quality of the work and the fact that he picked it up to do without prompting) and asked him why the change. He said if he wants to go to high school or college he will need to do it this way. (I have mentioned that a few times over the years) and he said as the math problems get more challenging he can see the benefit of showing his work.
    Starting 8th grade (our fifth year homeschooling)
    Dumplett (girl - age 13) and Wombat (boy - age 13)

  7. #6

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    Is it important?
    I think it is - especially as we move beyond arithmetic. Geometry proofs - all about the steps. Solving for X - all about the steps.
    Me being able to check his work is really secondary.

    I cant remember ever not showing my "upper math" work - and even solving the simple equations in singapore 6a, I solve it by writing each step neatly below the previous one. I cant even remember if I ever groused about it.

    So I guess what I was wondering, is:
    1) Is it in range of "typical" for DS10 to be so disorganized and resistant to showning and organizing his work. (So far, nobody has said their 8yo does it beautifully.) If its typical, I dont need to worry about it, just keep on trying.
    and
    2) how can I encourage him to put his math work in a coherent way onto paper?

    Why doesnt he use the space provided on Singapore pages? Hes not a perfectionist by any stretch of the imagination. My best guess is that he thinks I am more likely to skim and spot check if there is no work there. Its a lot easier to catch an arithmetic error if its written out in front of you. But it seems there are more important battles to fight than where he is doing his math. "You put that division problem in that square, or you will be homeless when you grow up!"
    Homeschooling DS11, DS5.

    Atheist.

    My spelling and typing are fine, its my keyboard that doesnt cooperate.

  8. #7
    Senior Member Evolved Deli76's Avatar
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    With division, dd doesnt put the numbers on top. She puts all the numbers in for the subtraction, but not the numbers up top for the answer...so she loses track of where she is. I have repeatedly told her she needs to keep everything in order when she is doing math because once she gets to algebra, there are order operations that she needs to do. Order of operations also helps with critical thinking. I love math! I really do lol. So here we are, starting pre algebra and she still doesnt want to keep everything in order and show work. She will if I keep on her about it, but I think she is still reluctant to do it because she just wants to get it over and done with. I just dont like getting frustrated during math lessons, I feel its counter productive. And OMG, we are using a text book, so she numbers the paper before hand , puts tha problems in and then she doesnt have enough room to work her problems! I dont get it.
    Bobo 13 yrs old - marches to the beat of her own drum, driven, out going and loud, yet she loves nature
    Booger Boy 21 yrs old - quiet, self assured, confident and laying his own path

    umbers cucumbers!!!!

  9. #8

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    My DS8 and DD12 both have this issue! DS8 tries to figure out everything in his head, and I'm talking myself blue in the face trying to explain to him that math isn't about cudgeling your brains like some great philosopher, chin on hand in thought, and then announcing The Answer in some Eureka moment. That it's about modeling things, drawing pictures if it helps, solving the same sort of problem but with easier numbers, so as to see more intuitively how it works, sometimes working backwords, sometimes making a chart or an input output table to figure out patterns...that it's important to be willing and able to put it down on paper!

    With DD12, she does her scribble work, but seems to prefer to hide it on a scratch sheet, where, yes, it's hard to tell where she went wrong, if she gets a wrong answer.

    I too am emphasizing the need to do all your "scratch" work, no matter whether it's perfect, no matter if you drew some interesting picture to figure something out... I just need to be able to see the thought processes that go with each problem so that any difficulties can be seen and addressed.

    It's like they fear that showing their work puts them on stage, and they have somehow gotten the idea that in math, you're not supposed to be caught actually figuring things out! I know that feeling well. Kids being praised for whipping out right answers, and denigrated for appearing to struggle, in school, really created that kind of performance anxiety that works directly against being willing to "think out loud" and on paper, to figure things out through effort, reasoning, and creativity.

    But how did my homeschooled kids get that way despite my intentional efforts to emphasize the importance of "getting dirty, taking chances, making mistakes" (as Ms. Frizzle would say) in math?
    40-something mom of 4 kids who haven't been to school, taking it one year and one day at a time.

  10. #9

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    I have one that does it in his head or with what to me looks like nonsense notes, with a right answer achieved, and I get upset because I can't keep up or figure out how he got it right. I'll have to wait for him to start making mistakes as the work gets harder, for him to believe me that such a day will come.....or maybe he just learns differently than I do.....I don't know, I'm kinda with Oksana regarding this particular son.

    The other one, he writes it out, but it's messy. The mess hamstrings him to an incorrect answer, often.....it's still messy, but he tries.... *shrug*

    No textbook cases here. And probably of no help to you either
    Homeschooling two sons (14 and 16) from day one. Atheist.
    Eclectic, Slackschooler covering 8th and 10th grades this year.

  11. #10

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    Maybe until he starts organizing his work on his own, just have him rework the problems he gets wrong a separate clean sheet, so you can follow along and see where it goes wrong if see if he spots the error himself.
    Teemie - 11 years old, 6th grade with an ecclectic mix

    Blog : Tumblr : Instagram : Facebook
    http://jessicamckelvin.com

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Difficulty showing math work