Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Student Bookwork In Mathematics

by Richard D Boyce

It was school policy in my last school that students in Years Eight to Ten have a work pad for each subject. In the Senior School, a large folder was acceptable. In Mathematics, a work pad was considered to be more appropriate in the Senior School.

Below are some suggestions I made to teachers in my Mathematics Department Handbook with regard to how students set out their bookwork for maximum benefit to them.

What is also important to note here was, at that time, in the senior Maths syllabuses, there was a communication criteria as part of the overall assessment procedure.

Therefore, it was important, right from the outset of high school, that students were taught how to communicate their Mathematics effectively. The bookwork suggestions below were the beginnings of that process.

Setting-Out Suggestions

Although teachers may have their own ideas on setting-out, the following are some ideas to consider:

1. Use a margin - can be used for numbers of the exercises and so on.

2. Write date, textbook references, i.e. page, exercise number, question. This helps students and teachers to keep track of their work for revision, etc.

3. Pages might be ruled up in the following ways to facilitate logical setting-out.
(a) Divide the page into 3 sections: a narrow margin on the left; a small working column on the right and a larger section in the middle to show the logical setting out.
(b) The second option is to divide the page into two halves to show the working in a logical way. Add a narrow margin on the left of each half. (This option would be useful in middle school classes where working out is less onerous than in more senior classes).
(c) In each case the student would write the date; textbook page reference; and the number of the exercise at the top of the page. The number of the question being attempted would be put in the margin.
(d) Lastly, the student would rule a line across the page under each completed question. (Some teachers, often, asked their students to underline the answer as well.)

4. Encourage students to work down the page rather than across. This makes checking easier.

5. Neatness is a must with particular stress on numbers, symbols and algebraic terms to prevent errors in recognition that lead to wrong answers.

Bookwork Assessment was part of the Assessment Program in the Junior high school classes in my school. Consequently, there was two important points involved in this assessment.

The first was that all work being checked and correct while the second was that all working and explanations should be shown logically and clearly.

It is important that teachers check progress in this area in the Junior classes. It could be on a formal basis, (i.e. taking up the books of all the class to check) or on an informal basis, (i.e. doing random selection of students' work).

Teachers were expected to date and to initial books as they saw them and offer written and verbal advice to the student on his/her progress.

One last comment: Below, for your consideration, is a notice on bookwork I saw outside a Junior class aimed at encouraging students to treat their bookwork seriously.

Bookwork must always be presented neatly.
Take your time to write neatly and set out your work correctly.
Be proud of the presentation of your written work.

This article is one of many published in a staff department handbook as a guide for teachers regarding standards and procedures to be used to create consistency across all classes within the school in that subject area.

The eBook, "A Guide to Creating a Staff Handbook", can be found on the website,

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