My daughter brought home a math test today and the teacher deducted 3 points because she SHOWED her work. Her work was correct and her answer was correct, but the teacher felt she should have done the work in her head since it was a factor of 10 problem. This is ridiculous because we drill it into our students' and children's heads to write everything down for partial credit. The teacher herself wrote a comment on a previous test that my daughter should not erase her work so she could receive partial credit. Apparently this logic does not apply to factor of 10 problems. Any thoughts on this? I'd like feedback before I elevate this issue to the principal and/or superintendent of schools. The teacher feels she was within her rights to deduct the points since she instructed students to figure out the problem in their heads.

I'd consider that not only to be inexcusable, but to be actively teaching your daughter bad habits. I don't know if I'd take it to the superintendent, but I don't see a problem with at least bringing it to a math lead, team lead, etc (or principal if it's a small school).

Hmmm....did you actually talk to the teacher? It sounds like you are just basing this off of what your daughter said. Talk to the teacher before talking to the administration. Could be a misunderstanding.

I would talk to the teacher first. Also, if a teacher asks a student to complete something in a certain manner, especially on an assessment, and the student doesn't follow those directions ... I've seen teachers that allow kids to write using anything in class, but demand only black or blue ink for tests/papers. Or they can write on both sides of the paper for classwork and homework, but can only write on one side of the paper for major assignments.

Did the teacher "feel" the work was to be done in her head, or did she "instruct" them to do it that way? I think taking this to a principal or superintendent is a huge over-reaction.

If there are certain requirements how to do the problem to receive full credit it should be written on the test. I don't believe just having verbal directions is sufficient especially when there are different requirements for the same type of problem that depends on the number used in the problem. Going to the super is too much, but you should speak with the teacher.

What grade is your daughter in? Some CC standards require MENTAL computation. One of our 2nd grade standards, for example, requires students to add or subtract 10 or 100 from a number mentally. If they work out a problem vertically on paper, it's not a mental computation. The only thing I have a problem with is the teacher's method of assessing such a standard- who's to say a student didn't work the problem on paper and then erase it? I assess mental computation individually and orally- yes, it's a hassle and takes a lot more time, but the only way I know to do it fairly. Some teachers are really picky- especially about directions. If a paper says "circle" something and a student underlines it but gets the answer correct, should the teacher mark it wrong or mark it down for not following directions? Should we assess following directions on every assignment? There are arguments to be made for both sides, I'm sure. On the one hand, the student needs to learn the valuable skills of listening carefully and following directions, but on the other hand, what's more important to assess- following directions or the actual content of the test? I don't know, but I'd think very carefully about getting a superintendent involved over 3 points unless it 1) could make a difference in her overall grade and 2) is a grade that actually matters in the grand scheme of things (a second grader receiving a score of Partial Mastery on the report card instead of Mastery, for example, would be minor compared to a senior getting a B instead of an A when she's working on a scholarship, you know?)

I emailed the teacher who emailed me back stating she felt it was fair to deduct the 3 points because she told the class that math problems involving powers of 10 should be done in their head.

I agree with you and am the first to tell my children if they got a problem wrong because they didn't read the directions, it is their fault. There were no directions on the test, certainly nothing before that problem. It was simply an equation with space for the answer. To add insult to injury, the teacher wrote the word "ugh" across my daughter's computation.

That is truly unprofessional. That comment does nothing to instruct. From my experience, those that are willing to write something like that on a paper aren't the ones to be sparring with. It is obvious that this person can't control her emotions when grading. I'm thinking that this attitude may prevail in day-to-day interactions with the students. If someone is willing to write something unprofessional on a paper, the sense isn't there to know what is and what is not professional.

I'd have HUGE problems with ever marking a student off for showing work. Like someone said, if they need to specifically assess mental math, then it's best to do it orally. Showing work is always a good thing, and the perfectionists in our midst always like proving that they are right. That should be encouraged, not discouraged. That comment is so inappropriate though. That tells me you should go to a principal.

The common core math is not the same as it was when we are in school. I teach 4th grade math, I might deduct points too--if it were calculated by regrouping or box method or something. If the child was writing down HOW they solved mentally (2430/10, 243/1 = 243, and no zeroes) I certainly wouldn't deduct points. We are required by the common core to teach mental computation. She is following the standards and holding the kids to that standard. Reporting her is absolutely ridiculous, you are reporting her for doing her job and giving her an unnecessary headache. If the teacher said to solve mentally and the child didn't, you are going to get mad at the teacher for giving the child partial credit--some credit because it was right but not full for not following directions? Really??? It doesn't matter whether it was typed on the test or not. I give verbal instructions sometimes, and my students are still expected to follow them.

I would request a parent conference to discuss the comment. I would've wrote, Susie, you were told to solve these problems mentally. Solving this way is time consuming and gives you unnecessary work! Save yourself time, multiply in your head and add 0s at the end! But I still would've took points off. I don't think "ugh" is serious enough comment to warrant contacting a principal. Now something attacking the child directly, yes, but "ugh?" And it may be in her mind she doesn't see it as a big deal. She most certainly would not write that on a paper for a parent to see if she felt it was out of line. If you feel it is out of line, then request a conference and ask her to be more tactful when dealing with your child. As a mother, and I am a mother first before a teacher, I would not be upset with my child's teacher for this situation. I would fully support the deduction of points for not following directions (it does not matter whether they are typed on the test or not--the test may have been pre-made and directions to solve those problems may have been written on the board and reiterated repeatedly--students should be able to follow those directions, especially an upper elementary student), and if my child was seriously troubled by the "ugh" comment, I would talk to the teacher in a conference. Now if you get no headway AFTER a parent conference, then yes, contact a principal. It just may be that if you point it out, the teacher will see it was too abrasive for your child and refrain from doing it again. And if Adam came home with a long, dragged out multiplication problem for something that could be computed mentally, I would work with him on the mental computation because it is GOOD for him to master that skill. I would tell him to suck up the deduction of points because he didn't follow directions--and my child is 6 and in first grade! The teacher is only looking out for the child and trying to save him/her unnecessary work. That is a good thing. And I may be alone on this, but that is how I feel as a mother.

I would almost guarantee that it does and that it has a HUGE effect on how motivated and inspired the students are to learn.

The problem is that if I know you want mental math and, for whatever reason, I can't do it in my head, and I know I'll get marked off if I show my work, then I'm just going to put my work on a separate piece of paper that I never hand in to you, or I'll write it on my desk, or I'll write on the paper and erase it, or I'll write on my hand. I also have a problem with telling children, "there's lots of ways to solve math problems, there's lots of ways to get to the right answer, but if you don't pick this way, you're wrong and you'll get a worse score."

Yes and no..... sometimes it's about the process, and not about the answer. For example, in HS, students are required to know multiple ways to solve a quadratic equation (factoring, CTS, quadratic formula, graphing), and if I say "solve by CTS", a factoring solution won't get much credit as I need them to be able to use all of the methods----the different methods come in handy for different things later down the road.

That's how I do it too. Like for division, I showed them short division, long division, and partial quotients. On the division test I tested their ability to do all... like I have them 7458/3 and they had to solve using all three ways. Then for the duration of the test they could choose the method they preferred, but they still had to show me they could solve using all of the methods. Of course, if they couldn't do one way it only hurt them a small portion, as long as they mastered one method, they still could get an A on the test--but I did want to see mastery of all ways.

This test is small compared to all the days and math tests ahead with this teacher. I'd schedule an appointment with the teacher so you can see what her future policy will be on tests. Maybe you can see that students are allowed to show their work unless it specifically says not to do it. Not allowing students to show work on a test is strange. We do mental math in class, but tests are different. Students get nervous and some want to be extra careful and show more work than what is needed. That type of behavior of showing work even when it isn't necessary makes sense to me on a test.

Sometimes it really is about the process. There are times when I give my students specific instructions about how to translate something in my class (I teach a primarily written foreign language). Students who ignore my instructions find their grades decreased--not because they didn't get the right answer but because they didn't translate properly. I need them to understand the process, because if they don't they will never be able to translate the more complex sentences we will be seeing down the road. It could be completely accidental that they got the correct translation if they guessed and didn't use the process that I teach them. That doesn't fly in my class. In this situation, I think a talk/visit with the teacher is in order. I don't think it's appropriate to go to the principal until you've talked with the teacher. I don't think it would be appropriate at all to go to the superintendent with this, period.

I am wondering....does solving something mentally mean not writing anything down? Or does it mean do not use "calculators". There is a difference to me. I see no problem writing out what you are at mentally calculating. It is an organizational tool and I for one would like to see that happening as I can see better how a student is thinking. I failed Mind Reading in college. I often students in my classes attempt to algebraic problems mentally in their heads (to come up with a final equation before calculations) and boy do they come up with some interesting ideas. They don't even have the original equation written down for me or themselves to reference. And of course students cannot go back and discover where mistakes were made if they are not written.

Thanks to everyone who replied. It was interesting reading everyone's point of view. While I understand the need for "mental math" and my children have all done it as part of school and homework assignments (after all, as they get older, they aren't always going to have a pen and paper with them to figure out a computation), I do not agree that a child cannot write down their work on a test. I will continue to encourage all of my children to write down the steps they used to solve their problems on both tests and homework (unless otherwise specified) since I believe that repetition helps them to learn and as this same teacher wrote on my daughter's previous test, it "allows me to give you partial credit". I think that having a child sit at their desk during a test and first try to figure it out if the problem they are working on falls into the "I can write down my steps" or "I'm not supposed to write down my steps" is absolutely ridiculous. Students should be able to simply take their test and not worry, as was the case with this test, that they have to remember problem 19 cannot be solved on paper. I will meet with the teacher, express my thoughts, then make a request that my next child not be placed with this teacher next year, as he will be in the 5th grade. I have also spoken to my daughter and told her that if directions are given out about a particular problem, she needs to listen, make a note on the test and solve the problem the way she is directed to solve it. I may not agree with that, but it's what she needs to do if she doesn't want points taken off. Thanks again to everyone and if you are in a snow zone - keep warm today!!

I really doubt that this is what happened (that students were either supposed to figure out which method to use while solving or that they were directed to use this particular method on question 19 only). It's much more likely that all problems needed to be solved using the same method. I think it's further likely that that instruction was either not communicated well or that the student failed to listen closely. I absolutely think that you need to get clarification from this teacher. What you don't need to do is go into the meeting all worked up over a single problem or exaggerating/misrepresenting the situation. If you do that, no one will take you seriously and the problem won't get resolved to your satisfaction.

The kids sitting at their desk worrying about mental computation are those who had not mastered that concept. The kids SHOULD know that powers of 10 can be done mentally, should be able to identify when this method of solving is appropriate---and that concept was a concept that was being tested by this teacher, she has every right to test this skill as it is mandated by the standards. You are upset with her for complying with the standards. I would want my child in her class because she is striving to meet the standards and thereby preparing them for their EOGs.