Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Explain Your Answer

Picture drawing a straight line over another straight line. If your line is a little off course and you don’t correct it, it will never match the original line. You need to make your correction at the beginning or the distance between the two lines will only get larger.

I know it is important that our students get the right answer but sometimes it is just as important to know how they arrived at the wrong answer. I tell my students that they will get credit if they can show me how they arrived at the wrong answer. They might have read something in the textbook or their notes that they misunderstood. By explaining to me how they got their answer, I am able to find out their misdirection and correct it. I think too many teachers just mark an answer wrong, give a grade, and move on. If we don’t correct the student’s misunderstanding, this will set them up to go further off course later on down the road.

Sometimes I will find the textbook has some errors and I don’t catch it. Then when I give a test that comes with the textbook and the student gets the wrong answer, either the answer key is wrong or some part of the textbook is incorrect. That is why I ask the students to show me how they got their answer. If there is an error (no matter who’s error it is), it needs to be corrected.

I have always heard that we all learn from our mistakes. But I feel we only learn how not to keep making the same mistakes if we learn why we made them in the first place. Otherwise we will keep making the same ones over and over again.

Errors are not terrors but learning from our mistakes is important in order to be successful in life. I hope my students get this message from me.

Original image: 'Lines and Curves' http://www.flickr.com/photos/43217080@N00/3016211949 by: Alfonso

7 comments:

Kauru Kamiya said...

Great idea. Never saw it that way. Thanks for the tip

Kobus van Wyk said...

If only all teachers will take the trouble to do this! So often they only leave a red mark which renders the assessment process worthless. I agree with you ... the final answer is of less importance than the process that was followed to find the answer. In the digital world, knowledge is available ... how to find it requires skill.

loonyhiker said...

Kaura: Glad you found it useful.

loonyhiker said...

Kobus: Nicely said! Thank you!

HappyChyck said...

Right on target! One of the hardest parts about teaching is troubleshooting where the thinking went wrong! It helps so much if students can articulate their process.

OKP said...

You are SO right! Thanks for reminding me.

loonyhiker said...

@HappyChyck It also cuts down on cheating if the students have to explain how they came up with the answer! :)