I am a middle school math teacher and year after year I have encountered the same issue during my Math warm ups. They WILL NOT copy their problems, no matter how small or how many times I blaze across the board COPY EVERYTHING. I want them to copy so they will have as a resource to review at home with parents and for tests. Anyone have a method that has worked for them?

I teach middle school and sometimes copying is just a lot for them to handle

Really? I teach 4th and they copy the problems without complaint. Well, maybe not without complaint but they still do it.

If they're not in special ed, where a copy of the problem is an accommodation they need, then I don't know why you should have to copy math problems for everyone. Seems like a pretty basic skill and one they better acquire before they get to high school or college.

I sometimes will tell kids, Okay, today you're turning this problem in. Or today you're presenting your solution to the class with a partner. They never know when that might happen, so they copy every time. I also walk around the room and check, and if someone hasn't started, I stand silently beside them until they do.

When I introduced my procedure at the beginning of the year (copy the directions (abbreviations and paraphrasing ok as long as the meaning is clear to ME), then copy the question, show steps working down, not across, circle answer, leave a space) I made sure I showed them how I expected them to do a problem, step by step; I explained my reasoning; had them work a couple of examples with me and copy my work step by step; answered any questions; had them do one on their own and check with a fellow student to see if their work matched the format I had demonstrated; then I walked around the room to check each one, and if they'd not done it as instructed, made them redo it correctly. After that, they had no excuse for not following my directions. None. My homework/classwork was graded on direction following, completion (try every question according to directions above), and appropriate correction (during class correction time.) We used a modified Cornell note taking format, both for notes and for homework. If you don't follow directions, you earn a zero.

It worked well for me - and for my students - for my whole career.

They use the same idea in English (state the thesis (i.e., in math, write the question) write your reasoning (in math, show your steps to prove your idea) then write your conclusion (in math, write your answer, circled or boxed to emphasize and complete.)

Also - following directions is important, not only in math, but in the "real world." You are teaching the a very useful skill and idea by making sure they know how to follow directions. The way you are asking them to show their work might not be the same as another teacher, but that's true in other departments, too - for example, some teachers/departments/schools use the MLA format for papers, and some use the APA. Neither is wrong - it's the teacher's/department's/school's preference and you'd better follow it if you want to earn the grade. It's the same in math. Your students need to learn this, and the earlier the better.

As a high school math teacher who would have inherited your kids (I just retired this year!) I applaud your efforts to make sure they understand the importance of writing the question!

When you say Capt the problem, do you mean something like write the numbers that are to be subtracted and then do the subtraction problem, showing the work (such as regouping)? I'm good with th that.

It you mean copy the word problem, that sounds like busywork. As the mother of a very intelligent child with horrible handwriting skills, this would have likely meant that no assignment would be turned in.

And really, why does every child have to lay out the work identically? I understand and agree with numbering the problems and doing them in order. But who cares if they go across or down? Why can't a student decide what works best for them?

And yes, I taught middle school and high school math.

Last edited by TAOEP; 08-25-2019 at 07:55 PM..
Reason: Additional info

..is whatever works for you. I respect that different teachers have different expectations, and that they have good reasons for what they choose to do.

When I was in school, my math teacher used an overhead projector. We were required to copy everything she wrote. At the end of the quarter we would turn in our notes for a grade on them. She would give extra points if we recopied them neatly before turning them in. If we were absent for a day, it was up to us to ask someone for their notes to copy them.This would give us a review draft, and help retain the information from the copying.

This routine, though tedious, is why I was able to take such good notes through high school and college. I actually had others at college offer to buy my notes before finals.

I would continue to expect them to copy the problems but there have to be some incentives and/or consequences to get them to do it. My other thought is how many problems in your warm-up? There shouldn’t be that many.

It's busy work, it's a waste of time, and it's boring. Give them the problems pre-printed for them to solve, or have them just show their work and solve without having to copy the board. "Copying the board" isn't a best practice, and NOBODY is going home with bellwork problems in hand to show parents and study...

I still think that there’s nothing wrong with copying out those problems for them. If you aren’t getting what you want, change the way you do it so that you DO get what you want. Scaffold, adjust, gradually change over to them copying the problems themselves. Sometimes the switch to a junior high setting is so huge!

However, my perspective is from the point of view of an EL student - here, copy all day AND try to absorb all the curriculum AND master material WHILE you’re processing/translating all of it as a second (or 3rd or 4th) language. And by the way, do it without being distracted by possible trauma such as coming from a refugee camp or the recent deportation of a parent.

I know that’s not the norm, necessarily, but it’s the only population I work with.

...but it does depend on the type and number of problems that they are expected to copy. For example, for my word problems, they don't have to copy all the words once I've taught them how to translate the English word problems to more efficient math language, i.e., identify your variables (X = the number of child's tickets); write an equation (or equations); show your steps to solution; and answer in a sentence.) This, for word problems, is "writing the problem" for me.

For other types of problems, they need to write the directions once above that group of practice problems (abbreviation or paraphrasing ok as long as its clear to me, e. g., "Solve for the indicated variable in each problem" could be paraphrased as "Solve for X" (assuming X is the variable indicated.)) Then they need to wrote the question e.g., 2X+3=10) and show steps to solution. The number of steps they need to show depends on the level of math I'm teaching and when I feel that they know the skill - in this case, transformations - cold.

I have spent many, many years developing how and why I teach math the way I do. Everything I do has a reason, and proof from years of my own research and my own experience that it works. I change my teaching techniques as need be to adjust to the situation at hand. I think that trying to explain the subtleties of the art of teaching can be difficult - for example, "Copy the problem" means different things to different people. I also think that we need to be careful when we comment about other teachers' methods of teaching, because we don't know the background - we weren't there in that situation, with that class, in that school. What we can do is, if we are asked, tell what worked/didn't work for us, and let other teachers use it or not as they choose.

We used to have students copy our warm up several times a week. There were always a few kids who just wouldn't. Then there were others who couldn't really see well, had horrific handwriting, and were just SO SLOW that it became painful. My coworkers and I eventually just gave them the warm-up preprinted for the semester. THEN, they would lose the packet.

Now, I have the packet copies and have them keep it in a binder that stays in my room. Now all the kids have to do is complete the warm up that is on the screen. Another nice thing is that they don't miss it when they are absent.