I have been teaching for more than 20 years. If you have been teaching for a long time, then like me, you may have used a certain strategy or instructional tool for a period of time, and then for some reason, stopped using it. Then after another period of time, you came back to it and wondered WHY you stopped in the first place! For me, this happened recently with self checking math activities.
The other day I made 20 copies of my Footloose answer key and had the students correct their own papers. They had worked on the Footloose activity for part of yesterday’s class and then finished during today’s.
I was surprised by the thoughts that went through my brain as they were correcting – the main one being – “When did I stop doing this?!”
I do have students check their homework answers with the answers shown on the board, but I don’t give them each a detailed answer sheet to use, and I rarely have them grade their own classwork. That’s about to change and here’s why.
Four Ways That Self Correcting Math Activities Can Benefit Students
Here are my re-discoveries related to students correcting their own math work.
1. Students Asked More Questions
Students asked me more questions when checking their work with my answer key. Since they were working at their own pace and checking individually, they seemed to be more comfortable with verifying whether or not their phrases were acceptable. I didn’t have every possible phrasing option on my key. Students who wouldn’t normally raise their hands to ask in front of the class were comfortable asking me questions during this time.
2. Students Saw the Correct Work Modeled
When creating a detailed answer key, step-by-step correct work is modeled. Because I had several options for phrases on my answer sheet, students had to read each one to see if theirs was on the sheet, giving them a little more exposure to correct options. I also had the steps for evaluating each expression, so they could go line by line and have those steps reinforced, as they compared the work to their own.
3. Students Found Their Own Mistakes
With self checking math activities, students find their OWN mistakes, rather than me finding them.
I heard comments like:
- “I copied the problem wrong,”
- “I said 3 x 3 was 6!”
- “Oh, I put division for product.”
And I realized as I did years ago – it makes so much more sense to them when THEY see the difference between the correct work and the mistake they made, rather than ME finding it. This left me asking myself “do they really know why I circle a mistake that they made on their paper if they don’t take the time to ask me?”
When they find the mistake, they know what happened. I don’t need to be the only one making those types of connections and observations. They need to make them too.
4. Increased Student Engagement
As students were checking their work, they were more engaged than ever! By giving them the answer key and the responsibility – they took ownership in the process. It was fun to see them with their pens or colored pencils, pointing at their papers, question by question, making sure they were being accurate in their grading of themselves. They were also very responsible in writing the correct answer accurately. I have them write the correct answers, using pen or a colored pencil, so the change stands out.
Add Some Self Checking Math Activities to Your Lesson Plans
I don’t know what prompted me to copy the answer keys and turn this into a self checking math activity, but I’m so glad I did! I was quickly reminded of all the benefits. You can guarantee we will be doing this more often in my classroom. It’s wonderful to be reminded of forgotten/lost practices that help students to think just a bit more.