Teaching Students An Effective Checking Technique In Mathematics

Why is a checking procedure necessary in Maths? Here are four reasons.

It ensures that each student can achieve their best possible result.

It saves time in examination situations allowing the student to spend more time on other questions that he/she can attempt. This means the possibility of more marks and better results.

It helps maintain confidence.

It means that the student should never get it wrong if he/she knows and understands the Maths involved. Subbing your 'answers' into each equation to make sure they make all the equations true is an example of what I mean here.

Below are the strategies I used when teaching students a checking process in Mathematics. Many of these strategies could be effective in other subject areas.

Strategy 1: Preparation for checking.

By this I mean that the teacher must inculcate a checking strategy as an automatic procedure within every student's consciousness. That means it is done with every exercise every day and not just done at assessment time.

Strategy 2: Setting out.

Logical, clear and neat setting out allow ease of checking. Teachers should constantly model appropriate setting out for each new procedure.

Strategy 3: Working down the page.

Logical setting out that goes done the page, line by line, makes it easy for the eye to check that the student has transposed the correct numbers or symbols.

Strategy 4: Step by step checking.

This I think is the most important strategy in the process. The student must develop a mindset that does the checking line by line as each step/line is completed. This strategy saves time, maintains confidence and increases the success the student has in assessment tasks.

Strategy 5: Answering the question.

Did you do what the question asked you to do?

Did you answer every part of the question?

Strategy 6: Estimating the answer.

When the student reads the question, the type of answer required should become apparent to him/her. There should be an expectation of what is the expected answer. This allows the student to compare what he/she gets for an answer with what he/she expects the answer to be. This allows him/her to consider the correctness of the answer that he/she gets.

Strategy 7: Calculators and checking.

The student must remember that the calculator is only as correct as the data imputed and the keys punched. Therefore, every calculator use must be checked by doing the calculation again. The student must record the first calculator answer before he/she does the calculation check. If the answers are different, then a third calculation is required to find the correct answer.

Strategy 8: Copying data from the written question.

This is the first and often most common of all errors made by students. It is essential that copying down of the data is checked automatically.

Stagey 9: Diagrams.

Diagrams are an essential part of some Mathematical exercises. Transposing the data from the question onto the diagram needs again to be correct before a student can begin to solve a problem. Diagrams need to be large to be useful.

Obviously, a successful checking process will not enhance a student's Mathematical ability but will always lead the student to the best possible results.

One last strategy:

It is important to make reference to where individual students make mistakes in their work. This last strategy is to point out, after each assessment task, where the errors were made and what checking strategy was required to eliminate that error. Point out, also, how many marks that those avoidable mistakes cost the student. This should be motivation enough for students to adopt a daily checking regime.

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