Math Wheels for Note-taking?

Helping Students Learn How to Check Math Problems

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Use this free resource to help your math students learn to check their work!

When my 6th grade math students finish their math assessments and want to hand them in, I always ask, “Did you check your work?” Often the answer is “yes,” but if it’s not, I won’t take the paper until the student does check their work. So, they go back to the assessment and ‘check’ for a couple of minutes and are ready to hand the assessment in again. The problem is their ‘check’ really focuses on making sure every question was answered.  That is until I started teaching them how to check math problems.  That was a game changer and today I’m sharing the tips with you.

Five Strategies for Checking Math Problems

Over the years, I have tried numerous strategies for teaching my students how to check math problems. Some worked well, and some not so much. The following strategies are the ones I’ve found to be the most helpful to my math students.

They aren’t always thrilled by the extra time and effort that it takes to check your work, but they do admit that it helps. And coming from middle school students – that says a lot!

1. Redo the Math Problems on a Separate Sheet of Paper

The first strategy that I teach when teaching how to check math problems is to have students redo the problem. The key to this strategy working is to redo the problems on a separate piece of paper, without looking at the work that was already done.

When students look at the work they already did, it influences them and they sometimes make the same mistake again.

After redoing the math problem, they compare their original math work and answer with the redo. This can take a while, but when students are ready to hand in an assessment with lots of class time left, I recommend they take the time to do this.

2. Use the Opposite Operation to Check

If possible, I encourage students to use the opposite operation as a strategy for checking math problems. For example, if the problem is an addition problem, subtract one of the addends from the sum. If it is a division problem, use multiplication to check, and so on.

Not only does this help check their answer, but it also builds a deeper understanding of how these concepts are connected to one another.

3. Ask Whether the Answer is Logical

The ability for students to determine if an answer is logical is an important one. In fact, it is one they will likely use for the rest of their life in day-to-day situations. That’s why teaching my students how to check math problems using reasonableness is always a strategy I teach.

If the problem was 2.56 x 7.91, an answer of 2.02496 (instead of 20.2496), is not logical.

This is where their estimating skills come into play. I take a lot of time in my math instruction to model estimating and how to determine if an answer to a math problem is reasonable. 

4. Substitute the Solution into the Equation

When it is possible, substituting the solution into the equation is a great way to check a math problem. If the solution is correct, the equation will be true.

5. For Word Problems – Reread and Identify the Question

If the test includes word problems, the best strategy students can use is to reread each problem carefully to be sure all of the information is identified and understood correctly.

I teach students to look for numbers that are written as words rather than digits. This is a common mistake students make as they work quickly and identify the key information as only what is written in number form.

I also teach students to identify the question being asked. So often, word problems include extra information that is not needed. This extra information can sometimes cause them to answer a question that is not being asked. By teaching students to be sure the answer actually answers the question the problem is asking we can teach them how to check math problems with accuracy.

Are You Ready to Teach Your Students How to Check Math Problems?

I created a How to Check Your Math Work reminder sheet for students to keep in their notebooks. This handy reminder is just what they need to check math problems with ease. After teaching the strategies students can choose the strategy they are most comfortable with or feel will work best on the problem.

Share this How to Check Math Problems sheet with your students. Download it below by clicking on the image. This free download includes a colored version and a black & white version. Just choose the one that will work best for your students. 

How to Check Math Problems free download for students

Save these Strategies

Ready to teach your students how to check math problems? Save this post to your favorite math Pinterest board so you can come back any time you need to.

 

Ellie

Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!

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