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Maths - DS doesn't see the point of writing his workings out.

(22 Posts)
slavetofilofax Wed 12-Oct-11 09:28:05

DS has just started in y7 at a very academic GS, which puts huge emphasis on maths.

He has always been very good at maths, but we knew that when he started at this school he would be going from the top of the class to just being average. And that's fine.

But the homework he has been given has been very hard. He says that he hasn't been taught some of the questions, which I can believe because they teach at a very fast pace, and expect the students to make their own connections to work things out. I find this wierd, but as they get excellent results, I assume there must be a method to the madness and it will be fine in the end.

DS has aspergers, so does need very clear instructions on how to do things. I was wondering if anyone could reccomend and good websites that would help up work out his homework, it's high lever y7 stuff. I really need something, my maths ability is atrocious!

Also, he is adament that there is no point in showing his 'workings out'. The aspergers means he has to see a 'point' to doing everything, and he just doesn't get it. Even though it was written in his book that he must show his calculations after his last homework was marked. As far as he is concerned, if the answer is right and he knows he didn't use a calculator, writing everything out is a waste of time. I have of course tried to explain the obvious to him, and I will be talking to his tutor about it at parents evening next week. But does anyone have any gem of wisdom that would make it click in DS's head so he does start to see the point?


IShallWearMidnight Wed 12-Oct-11 09:37:18

in exams you get marks for getting the answer right AND marks for the working out (method), so if for soem reason you get the answer wrong, but have gone the right way about getting there (say by reversing numbers, or not checking where your decimal point has gone, yes you DD1 wink) then you can still get soem marks for the question.

Also it's useful for the teacher to be able to see how you've got to where you have, as quite often there are shortcuts and simpler ways of doing things.

Would either of those help?

IShallWearMidnight Wed 12-Oct-11 09:40:18

also meant to say that DD1 was exactly the same all the way up till A level maths where it started getting too complex for her to keep the whole thing in her head, and it suddenly dawned on her why every tacher had been banging on about writing out your workings for years grin. Sometimes you have to let them discover the reason why themselves.

witchwithallthetrimmings Wed 12-Oct-11 09:44:24

other reasons
when you come back to it you can remember how you did it
in case you make a silly mistake -(x+y) = -x-y not -x+y for example
to get into the habit of it for the time when you will need to take it at step at a time
teacher is interested in how you got the answer (often more than one way of doing things) and is useful for the teacher to know which ones you feel more confident with

Miggsie Wed 12-Oct-11 09:46:39

My friends son is AS and was exactly the same.
His dad sat down with him and said:
The aim in exams is to get the highest mark possible.
To do this they give you marks for writing out the working and for the answer.
So this is how you get the top show your working and the answer. Then, if you d o slip up with the answer you will still get marks for the workings.
If you don't show your workings then a boy who is not as clever as you will be able to get better marks and it will look like he is better at maths, when he isn't. Remember the examiners can't know that you answer isn't a guess because they don't know you, and they are a bit silly, so you need to show the working.
So although it is boring and pointless in a way, if you want the top mark, you need to do it.

This worked because my friend's son is mega competitive. However, he is now under the impression that people who mark exams are not as clever as he is....!

tabulahrasa Wed 12-Oct-11 09:50:11

For him - if he does make a mistake, without working he can't find out where he went wrong, so can't learn what he did nor avoid doing the same mistake again.

As already said in exams you get marks for the working, often more than for having the right answer. It's entirely possible to fail an exam with all the right answers just by missing the marks fir the working.

For his teacher- his teacher doesn't know that he didn't use a calculator, or just copy them in fact.

His teacher also won't be able to tell what he's understood and what he hasn't, so won't be able to go over anything that's been missed.

slavetofilofax Wed 12-Oct-11 09:56:57

Brilliant and very interesting answers! Thank you all very much smile

I thought I had been explaining the most obvious answer when I said that the teacher needs to see that he knows how to do it properly and didn't just use a calculator.

But marks in exams, things getting more complicated later on, and remembering how you did it, all make a lot of sense! I will definately be using all those things in our next Maths Homework Chat! I might even print this out.

Migsie, I think it will be quite easy to convince ds that he's cleverer than examiners, he sounds just like your friend's son! It's good to know that another child with AS has experienced this. I've been fairly certain it is an AS thing rather than an 11yo boy thing, but sometimes it can be hard to tell with these very subtle issues.

Grammaticus Wed 12-Oct-11 12:21:30

I agree with what everyone has said. I expect you only need let things take their course, though, because if he does the end of term test without showing his working then he will lose a load of marks and that will stop him doing it again.

noblegiraffe Wed 12-Oct-11 12:57:31

Maths is not about giving 'answers', it is about presenting solutions to problems. Your 'answer' is worthless if you have not argued that it is correct by presenting a series of workings that proves that it has to be right.

The answer is merely the last line of the solution. He could have used a calculator, copied off a friend or fortuitously plucked the correct answer out of thin air. He needs to show that he got it through logical reasoning and careful calculation.

By the way, even if he was allowed a calculator he'd be expected to write down what he told the calculator to do.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 12-Oct-11 15:39:05

When I was doing my accountancy exams, I had a tax question that was worth 30 marks.
Only ONE of those marks was for the final answer

and in real life, being able to explain and justify to HMRC how I got to a tax figure is what keeps a roof over my head

workings matter

blueemerald Wed 12-Oct-11 18:17:36

My brother has AS and we (after explaining the method/answer situation to him several times) asked his teacher to only give him half marks (if he got them all right!) for any homework/classwork with no workings. He didn't like it but he learnt fast!

slavetofilofax Wed 12-Oct-11 18:33:32

Thanks everyone. Lots more ammunition to throw at him next time he has to do it!

It doesn't help that tonight's maths homework had to be done online. It was supposed to be done in his head, which doesn't help me reinforce that he has to show workings out! hmm

I will be talking to the teacher at parents evening, and encouraging them to be harsh about it! It will also help him to hear it being spelled out by a teacher why he has to do it. He needs them to tell him the reasons why, instead of just saying 'do it'! Unfortunately he doesn't respect my opinion much when it comes to maths, he knows full well that his ability out stripped mine when he was still in year 3!

Idratherbemuckingout Fri 21-Oct-11 11:05:11

My older son has AS and was exactly the same. Now my DS3 is repeating the process, although his diagnosis was only traits of Aspergers. We are convinced he has the full blown version.
It has been a nightmare to convince him to write down his workings. I have cut and pasted that wonderful advice about not letting the examiner think another boy is cleverer than you and will print it out and pin it in front of his desk!
Because he is very good at doing maths in his head, he does it when it is quite unnecessary (on a calculator paper for example) and can take longer than he should. I think he sees it as a point of pride to do hard sums in his head.
Does yours?
Granted, I can do them too, but that's not the point.
He is Year 6, currently working at level 7, if that actually means anything at all, which I suspect it doesn't.

CustardCake Fri 21-Oct-11 12:19:45

I tell my DS the same. He protests that he can hold it all in his head (the fact that decimal points are quite small must explain how they seem to drop out!).

I gave up being reasonable and just told him "half the marks in the exam are for showing your working out. If you don't do it, you can't get full marks. Its just exam rules so you have to show the workings even if you don't need to use them"

wordfactory Fri 21-Oct-11 14:34:22

A young man studying at Oxbridge told my DS that an answer is worthless, afterall you could have just guessed.
What you need to show is the solution.

He also showed my DS how it was possible to get 80% in an exam and get most of the answers incorrect.

That did the trick.

Kez100 Fri 21-Oct-11 14:40:55

There is an emphasis at Primary on mental Maths and I think children are praised for being quick there. Of course, they then (naturally) follow the logic through to secondary, where problems are a bit longer and require a solution to be shown.

I think the children who struggle at Primary with mental Maths are probably better equipped to accept a written answer in Maths.

I use Maths all the time and an answer is not sufficient. I am pleased methods are rewarded because, in real life, answers are always checked for mathematical accuracy but if you don't know the method to solve you are in trouble.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 21-Oct-11 15:15:24

in one of my accountancy exams I forgot a particular number in a huge question so I wrote that all parts of the question from then on would be multiples of "n"
so my final answer was along the lines of "Tax bill = £ 2.4n"
I passed.

LastSummer Sat 22-Oct-11 16:34:45


I strongly recommend subscribing to Your son will be able to work at the level appropriate to his experience of maths and practise tasks that he is not familiar with. He'll also be able to compete with other bright kids!

nickelbabe Sat 22-Oct-11 16:39:08

Technically, you can get an A at GCSE without ever getting a correct final answer.

that's because you get marks for showing your working out.

LastSummer Sat 22-Oct-11 20:41:36

These two books will tell your son everything he needs to know and more. . .

complexnumber Sun 23-Oct-11 13:39:48

The advice given is pretty sound. Even if I don't like the idea of only showing working in order to get marks, I can see how it would be an effective strategy to motivate students who struggle to see any other need (which would be most of them).

I really like the reply that spoke of supplying a solution rather than just an answer.

I tend to stress that mathematics can be seen as a language (arguable, I know) and that you are trying to communicate with whoever is marking your work. TBH most kids just humour me when I come out with this.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 23-Oct-11 15:25:59

Year 1 Accountancy exams : 2 + 2 = 4

Year 2 Accountancy exams : 2 + 2 = between 3 and 5

Year 3 Accountancy exams : 2 + 2 = why did you need to know ?

once you master the third one numbers become art - and worth a good income :-)

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