# Points off for not showing work?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by teachin4ever, Dec 6, 2010.

1. ### teachin4everCohort

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Dec 6, 2010

Hey everyone!!

This question is directed towards math teachers.

I have a few students who do not like to show their work because they can "do it in their head". However, on a test, if I can't see their work and how they arrived at their answer (which, in my opinion, is more important than getting the correct answer), I'm tempted to take points off. Plus, how do I know if they cheated or just guessed?

Does this seem too harsh? What do you guys think?

Thanks in advance!!

3. ### flyingmickeyRookie

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Dec 6, 2010

Instead I would phrase my questions so they get one point for the answer and one point for showing the work. They would only get 50% without showing the work.

4. ### MrsCMultitudinous

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Dec 6, 2010

When I taught math, I would assign one mark for every step in a solution and one for the correct answer. That way, a student could still do well on a test if they made a computation error, but followed the correct process, and could, conversely, fail a test if they get the correct answer but don't show any work.

5. ### smalltowngalMultitudinous

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Dec 6, 2010

This is what our math teachers did when I was in high school. It helped me pass my math. I knew how to do the steps, but sometimes wouldn't always get the right answer.

6. ### kcjo13Phenom

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Dec 6, 2010

This is exactly what I do.

I am currently battling a bunch of copying 7th graders. This morning, I had 4 tell me that they found the prime factorization of 368 "in their head" (it is 2^4*23, by the way). Yeah, mm hmmm.

So on the semester exam next Thursday, without your buddy in band class, or the answer in the back of the book, you'll be able to find the prime factorization of 688 "in your head" also?

:|

7. ### smalltowngalMultitudinous

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Dec 6, 2010

Of COURSE I can!!

8. ### teachin4everCohort

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Dec 6, 2010

Thanks so much for the replies.

My math problems are typically worth 2-3 points and I take off partial credit for mathematical errors. So I guess it would make sense then to take off points if they didn't show their work! I just wanted to make sure other teachers did this and that it made sense.

I took points off one year because the student didn't show their work and their parent complained and said, "But they got the right answer so why take points off?" Because of that, I tend to second guess myself a bit.

9. ### teachin4everCohort

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Dec 6, 2010

This is a great idea. Most of my problems are 2 points (sometimes 3) but I really like the idea of assigning each step a point. Then, there's no discrepancy when grading.

Thanks for sharing, MrsC!!!!

10. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Dec 6, 2010

If you want to play the "I did it in my head" game in my class, there are two options:

a. Work doesn't count, all that counts is the answer. That means that there is NO PARTIAL CREDIT, since the work doesn't matter. Leave off ANYTHING-- a negative sign, mis calculate, whatever, and you lose full credit.

b. The work does count. Then it stands to reason that I need to see it.

I had a sophomore play this game 2 weeks ago. He lost full credit on 2 long problems and got a 44 on a test. I gave him the chance to take a make up after school, and his grade bumped up to a 94 when he showed the work.

11. ### teachin4everCohort

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Dec 6, 2010

Alice,

Thanks for responding...I was hoping you would so I could hear your take on this.

It sounds like it's common to get points off for not showing work. I"m sticking to my guns then!

Thanks!!

12. ### WaProviderFanatic

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Dec 6, 2010

I soooo wish I was in your class in high school! Totally my math issue.....love this solution!

13. ### WaProviderFanatic

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Dec 6, 2010

Seems that each step gets a point plan would be an easy and self correcting solution. The student would

A) do the work, get the answer and show the work and get full credit
or
B) not show the work and miss credit. When the parent calls and says "but Johnny got the answer correct"....the logical answer is "True, and I gave the answer the point it is allowed".

I love that!!!

14. ### David BrownRookie

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Dec 6, 2010

I like to get my students to show working out because if they get it wrong I can see where they went wrong and if they show working out I can usually tell that they haven't copied. I would do mark a point for each step of the process, even if they can do it in their head they need to be able to communicate to others how they did it.

15. ### alschoolteacherCompanion

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Dec 6, 2010

I am dealing with this in 2nd grade. I have a student who refuses to show his work on double digit addition. I am teaching the process of double digit, therefore he needs to show me the process. I count off if they don't show me the "carried" number as well.

16. ### mmswmModerator

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Okay, I'm the mean one. Any problem without the work gets no credit at all, even if the answer is right. A wrong answer and a correct process, however, could mean almost full credit. Depending on the length of the problem, the actual answer could be worth anywhere from a quarter point to one or two points.

Like Alice, I've had students play that game with me. I once received a test in which every single answer was, in fact, correct, but the student showed absolutely no work. He got his zero for the test, with an offer to retake a different version of the test during lunch.

17. ### callmebobEnthusiast

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Even with 4th graders I use a variation of partial credit on tests. I expect all students to show their work, when they don't sometimes I make them go back and do work, not always though (gotta pick the battles some days). Each math problem on a test is worth 2 points. If the answer is wrong but I can tell by their work they were doing the process right, they get half credit. If the answer is right and the work does not match at all, then they could lose a point. Usually this happens when the students are cheating.

18. ### moparMultitudinous

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Dec 6, 2010

I also take points off for not showing work. I would also highly suggest, that you make them show their work on their homework. Model what work you expect to see. Then, they seem to show more work.

Also, let some of the students write out how they solved a problem in their head for work. I had one boy, extremely bright, who could actually solve the problems in his head. So, he just wrote out how he knew the answer.

19. ### Catcherman22Companion

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Dec 6, 2010

I think it really depends on a few things.

How complex the problem is and the student who's attempting it.

If it's a complex problem where I know they can't do it in their head, then they get one poiint for an answer and that's it.

If it's a problem that could possibly be done in their head.. and the student is capable based on past experience.. then I tend to let it slide and give full credit.

But the whole all or nothing works well for anybody who ever needs a talking to about showing work.

20. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Dec 6, 2010

That's true; I didn't think to mention that scenario.

If it's something like a Pythagorean Triple or a special triangle--something that they CAN reasonably be expected to do in their heads, then they can receive full credit.

An explanation can help them get partial credit in case they goof, but I'm OK with them not showing work on that sort of an example.

21. ### FarFromHomeConnoisseur

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Dec 6, 2010

I'll take off half the points if they don't show their work. My kids are only in third grade, but I tell them that they need to get used to showing their work. I've told them that problems will be a lot harder when they get older, and they need to be in the habit of showing their work.

22. ### beccmoComrade

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Dec 6, 2010

I teach physics, and I require students to show their work on everything. I consider it their "detail" to support their answer, especially when there can be more than one way to solve a problem. I give partial credit, so students could get 4/5 if they made a calculator error. I also take points off for what students consider "not a big deal": not including units in their equations, incorrect number of significant digits, no diagram. These are details that have been modeled since day ONE of class, and are key to problem solving in class.

PS: My favorite no-show of work is metric conversions. I cannot tell you how many times students have converted 55 mm to 55000 m. If work were shown (with units) it should be obvious there are NOT 1000 meters in 1 millimeter.

23. ### CerekAficionado

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Dec 6, 2010

An 8th grade math teacher I observed during my ST last year had his policy written plainly on the board:
No name on test -10 points
No work shown -10 points
Test done in pen -10 points (I liked that because I also don't allow HW or tests to be done in pen).

My policy is -10% on homework/classwork for not showing work. Homework is graded for effort rather than accuracy, so they get a "%" grade rather than a numerical grade.

When I illustrate new concepts or review previous concepts on the board, I ALWAYS write ALL of my work on the board, then tell the class that is how THEIR work should look in their journals when they do the problems. I don't grade each individual HW assignment, but I do take up their math journals about once every two weeks and make sure they are doing the work correctly and showing each step.

On our quizzes, I always include short answer questions that should force them to do mental calculations. Many of these questions will include the requirement to "Justify your answer" or "Explain your reasoning". I have told the students over and over that simply means "SHOW YOUR WORK!" If you SHOW me how you arrived at the answer, that automatically "justifies" the answer and explains your reasoning. (I still have a couple that think they have to give a written explanation in addition to the answer).

On my last two quizzes, I have given partial credit for students that showed their work, but got the answer wrong. The questions on my quizzes are usually worth about 6 pts each. If they show their work, but get the wrong answer, I will give them either 3 or 4 points for the effort they made. If they just make a simple addition mistake and miss the answer by 1 or 2, I might give them 5 points out of 6.

However, if they just give me the answer and show NO work, then it's an "all or nothing" deal. They either get full credit for the right answer or they get NO credit for the wrong answer. Once they see their classmates missing the same question they did, but still getting 4 pts credit while they got 0, it doesn't take long for them to decide it MIGHT be a good idea if they start showing their work too.

So do NOT back down for making them show their work. They will have to continue doing that for increasingly difficult and complex problems as they progress through the rest of their education. The sooner they make it an automatic habit, the easier it will be for them as they encounter content that is more advanced.

24. ### paperheartGroupie

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Dec 7, 2010

I add a few questions to my test that are meant to check if they know how to do the problem. Since I always have my students make an answer sheet to save time (a lot of time!( grading, I don't see their work for every problem. I check the work to learn where I can assist a particular student that is failing or to see what students tended to do on a frequently missed problem, but I do that after I am finished grading the tests.

I will add questions to assess their process skills such as:
Copy all your work from problem 8 into this box.
Copy the first step from problem 2 into this box.
Explain the steps you took to solve problem 9.

25. ### BrendanFanatic

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When I taught Math for any assignment I took up and graded (unit reviews, labs, tests, quizzes, etc.) I would include in my answer key steps for each part of the work. I would also attempt to include the multiple ways I could see of solving the problem in my answer key. When I graded each problem I would go through and check each part of the work. Each check would earn them credit towards the final answer. So if a problem was 10 points and it had 5 steps, each step would be worth two points. So if they were solving a word problem and made it all the way down to step four and didn't get the negative symbol, they would earned 9/10 point for that. I wouldn't take off all 10 points.

26. ### G00d d00bieRookie

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I do like MrsC - give credit for each correct step. There's a lot of value in showing work. The more students write neatly, the more they line things up, the more quickly they learn to recognize patterns which is a lot of what math is all about.

27. ### EightyFiveUFNew Member

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This whole system is flawed no matter what.

If a student is cheating, give them a zero, courts don't jail because people are suspicious, they jail when they are proven guilty.

Its subjective, which is unfair. How, or even if, teachers grade this way is not regulated, which means two identical students could get different grades based on the teacher, or how focused the teacher was when grading their specific test. Math is set in objectivity, you're wrong or you're right, if you wanted to be subjective, be an English teacher.

"But what if they guessed", if its ABCD, they had a 1/4 chance, and if its write-in, than they are extremely lucky. Some teachers encourage "choosing what you think is the most right" so condemning students for doing that is horribly inconsistent.

If you want students to show work, make questions take steps that can't be written. Even if you think it is, some gifted student will do it in their head, and get further stomped out by the public school system. A lot of questions don't require any math, or even the bare minimum, if you mark students down because of this, you are the problem.

In California, all state tests are on computers, and students, on the state test, are not required to show any work whatsoever. Its almost egotistical for teachers to mark harsher than the state, why should a random test be graded more importantly than the tests that decide your educational future. Teachers' Unions and such prevent the state from making classrooms into consistent experiences in terms of grades. Why should teachers get to make their own rules, and get to break them whenever with no consequences and no argument

The way you all in this thread fight off these students who criticize YOUR inconsistent methods is pathetic, you all high-five each other and justify and glorify defeating students, who's futures are at your mercy, in an "argument". When that argument is you refusing to listen and being stubborn to any criticism that isn't out of the words of the School Administrators. Because why would a child know more than you, why should a child who grew up in this system know more about the system's faults than you, someone who grew up in an entirely different system? They know more, but you refuse to listen.

Teachers that follow this subjective, inconsistent line of thinking are the reason why students get left behind in the "No Student Left Behind Act".

Last edited: Jun 1, 2023
28. ### TeacherNYMaven

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29. ### readingrules12Aficionado

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I taught jr. high math and remember students that did all of their steps in a math problem and then did a small error in calculation such as subtracting wrong. Then another student would put down nothing or have no part of the answer correct. Should they both get 0 points for the problem? Not always an easy answer IMO.

I do know that I learn so much about what the students know or don't know when they show their work in math. That is one reason I hate standardized tests. I can't see their work which limits how I can use that data to better help them.

I do get that some students can sometimes do complex problems in their head. That is why a student who gets the problem correct with no work should at least get all or nearly all of the points. Having taught junior high, I know that my former students wouldn't have shown their work if I didn't take a point or two off for no work. As most of my math tests and quizzes were formative, this would have made it tough on me to teach as well. I think the penalty for no work should be small, such as always 1 point off for not showing work on a 10 point problem. Most importantly it must be consistent and known to the students ahead of time.

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