Unless student exploration and problem solving are the task at hand, give the kids access to correct answers for every activity they complete.
I find that one of the biggest differences between the way that I complete problems and the way most of my students do is that I check the answer using the back of the back, my teacher’s edition, or software1. Students will complete a problem and go on to the next. Once they’ve written an answer for the last problem, the work is done.
I’ve been trying to change this for a while. Last year I started assigning only problems with answers in the back of the text for homework, and this year I’m requiring all problems that can be checked to be checked.
I also write activities to use in class. Up until last year I almost never had an answer key ready for them when I’d write them. This year I’m trying to be better. After writing a worksheet, I print it out, solve it, and translate my work into the answer key. Not only does this make it much easier for me to hand a reference to students in class, it makes it that much easier for students to verify their process and thinking.
Here’s a sheet I’m going to use tomorrow in Algebra
This answer key isn’t meant to be the only source of truth, and I’ll try to give student solutions the main stage, but I think providing a complete model (and having it ready) helps students to gain confidence in their own thinking as they work. It’s also a great way to answer the “am I doing this correctly?” when you are needed elsewhere. Very few students will try copy answers, and it’s always clear when they do.
There are times when I would withhold the correct answer/solution for students almost endlessly to force them to think their way through, and times when I want them to practice applying a new skill with answers close by. This is one of those times.
A few new files for equation solving practice are here. Click on a file to download it. The box is friendly and doesn’t add any pop-up junk.