Why Do I Have To Show My Work In Maths?

Because if you don’t then your work doesn’t show that you understand how to get the answer. There’s no proof that you know what you’re doing.

You might not know how to work out the answer so you guessed it and guessed it right. Or you might have copied from someone else who did know how to work it out.

Or maybe you think that just because you know how to do it without showing steps then you don’t need to show your steps.

Teachers have to know that you’ve done the work yourself and the only way they know for sure is if you show your working out.

This Is What Can Happen If You Don’t Show Your Work In Maths

Eventually you’ll reach a point where you can’t do the Maths unless you write some steps so you can see what to do next. Even really smart Maths students know this and they usually show their steps – that’s why they get good marks in tests.

If you’re not getting “A’s” in all of your Maths tests and exams then you need to show your working out.

If you are getting “A’s” in Maths without showing any working out then maybe you’re genius material or you’re very good at Maths and can do the steps in your head or perhaps you’re relying on using your calculator to work out the really hard stuff.

This Is What Will Happen If You DO Show Your Work In Maths

When I taught at a high school I only gave my students 1 mark for a correct answer if they didn’t show any working out. Even if they were really good at Maths but didn’t show any working out I still did it.

They complained but it only took one test for them to realise that they wouldn’t get an “A” unless they showed their working out.

So they showed their working out and they became ever better at Maths because they made it a habit – something they didn’t have to think about doing, something that became automatic.

Their understanding of Maths kept improving and they got better at doing the harder Maths questions.

They started getting the top marks in my Maths class and they ended up being one of the top students in my class.

And they ended up getting better marks in their exams which meant they had a better chance of doing the top Maths in high school.

This gave them the chance of going to the Uni they wanted and pursuing the kind of career they wanted.

Without Maths you have limited options for the more prestigious career paths like Doctors, Scientist, Pilots and so on.

If you’re happy having a low paid job or you have some other ideas about how to make a living where you don’t really need Maths then it won’t matter too much if you don’t show your steps in Maths at school.

But if you do then you’re putting in and doing the absolute best that you can in Maths at school and in doing so you’ll be taking responsibility for your results in one thing that you’re doing.

When you leave school and start working you’ll have to take responsibility for most of the things you do so taking responsibility for your results in Maths at school is a good place to start doing this.

Why don’t you show your work in Maths, get even better at Maths, see if you can get 100% in every test and and look beyond to see what else you can excel in?

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  • William Mandel January 31, 2013, 12:24 pm

    Thank you for your clarity. We homeschool and this is a constant battle. I will share this with my son.

  • michael wion August 24, 2013, 3:29 pm

    You’re welcome. Has the article helped your son?

  • Joshua September 19, 2014, 9:11 am

    As a gifted HS student, I’d say you are right about much of this. However, as a person who tends to make 100’s in the vast majority of light math assignments, this sort of thing is extremely illogical. I just got back three papers, with all problems being correct, with 70’s, only because I did not show my work entirely. This makes very little sense to me, even if the teacher is trying to force a habit so I will show my work for tasks in which I HAVE to show my work. I shouldn’t be getting minimum C’s for A+ work.

    • michael wion March 10, 2015, 2:51 am

      Well what I used to say to my students was “If you don’t show any working you won’t get full marks”.

      And then I explained to them that if they don’t show any working out then they might not have known how to do it and guessed the answer and got it correct.

      Or they might have copied off someone else’s work or they actually did know how to do it and didn’t show steps.

      I understand that you find Maths easy to do but I guess it’s just part of the deal when you do Maths at school – gotta do what your teacher wants or you don’t get the marks.

  • chandler March 9, 2015, 9:33 am

    should we have to show our work if we can use calculators?

    • michael wion March 10, 2015, 2:44 am

      It really depends on what Maths problems you’re doing and what your teacher wants.
      If you really want to make Maths easier to understand then the most effective way of doing Maths I believe is to show the steps in your working and then use your calculator in the final calculation.
      That way you remember the steps and you really understand the concepts much better.

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