Math = Love: Always Show All Of Your Thinking Poster

Friday, August 7, 2015

Always Show All Of Your Thinking Poster

A few weeks ago, I saw this tweet:

I've always begged and pleaded with my students to show their work, but it's never seemed to do any good.  Some students always show their work.  Others persist with just writing an answer no matter what.  It's these students that often protest that they shouldn't have to show their work if they can do it in their head.  Though, sometimes I wonder if "I did it in my head" is code for "I adjusted the angle of my head to see what answer my neighbor wrote and copied it down."

Another problem I've had is that so many of my students want to work out quiz questions on our mini dry erase boards.  They love the ability to be able to quickly erase if they make an error.  And, I'm completely on board with them using their resources in this way.  I know that for many of my students, the thought of starting a problem on paper is daunting.  But, if you give them a dry erase board, they can embrace trying ideas, even if they end up being dead ends.  The problem is that students will often do their work on a dry erase board and write ONLY their answer on the quiz.  If they made a mistake, I can't figure out where they went wrong, only that they did go wrong.  And, I've seen too many students try to get away with holding up their dry erase board for someone across the room to see the answer and write it down.

This tweet showed me that how I ask for things influences what I get.  If I ask students to show their work, they can claim that they did it all in their head.  If they never wrote anything down, there's no work to show.  But, if I ask them to show their thinking, that's a different story.  Thoughts can be recorded into words.  Students might not want to record them, but they can always be recorded.

And, if a student is creative enough, they could show their thinking via a diagram or picture or graph or some other way of showing thinking that will surprise you.  This year, I'm going to let my students use dry erase boards during their quizzes.  They can use the boards to figure out a path to their solution.  If they follow a path that is leading the wrong way, they can erase and start over.  But, once they do find the path to their solution, they will be required to show all of their thinking that led them to this solution.

I'm excited about this small change.  I'm excited about changing all of my quizzes to say "show your thinking" instead of "show your work."  I'm so excited about it that I made a poster to hang on the wall to remind myself and my students of this emphasis on thinking.

  I uploaded the poster here as an editable Publisher file and a non-editable PDF file.  For the editable version, you will need to download these free fonts: Barrio and Operating Instructions.  The poster is formatted to print as an 18" x 24" engineering print from Staples.  You can upload this file online, and Staples will print it for $1.99.  If you'd prefer a letter sized poster, Adobe can resize the poster to fit your paper when you print it.

Once I pick up my posters from Staples and get them hung up, I'll update this post with pictures!


  1. I love this!! I saw this a few weeks ago and have spent the past couple of days going through my quizzes/homework/tests/etc. changing "show your work" to "show your thinking." I'm excited to see the impact it has this year!

    1. I still catch myself saying "show your work" and have to correct myself.

  2. This rewording is perfect! I will be printing out this poster and laminating it also....thanks again!