- A student is much more likely to identify errors when writing their work down.
- If a student abandons a question and comes back to it later, he or she is much more likely to figure out how to continue if they’ve written their work down.
- If a student is working with a tutor, the tutor is in a much better position to help the student if the tutor can see how the student operates.
Despite the fact that “Write. It. Out.” is one of my key mantras, it does not mean that all of my students take to writing out all of their work immediately. For many of them, it is simply contrary to how they operate, especially students who tend to skate by in their school math. For others, they don’t know where to begin.
So a student knows they have to write out more. But write *what*? Where should one start?
What I’m about to say is at once simple and obvious, and yet to many students, counter-intuitive:
*Write the information again!* (Not necessarily the whole problem, but any equations or expressions given.)
“What?!” many a student exclaims. “Why write out something that’s already been written out for me? Isn’t that a waste of time?”
No. It’s not. A waste of time is spending two minutes doing a question in one’s head, making a minor mental mistake, and getting the question wrong. Our goal is to get questions *right*, and in a timely fashion. And copying down the information given is a critical first step on the way to answering a question. Contrary to popular belief, it is not that time-consuming, nor a waste of that time.
To drive my point home, here’s a scene that has played out dozens of times in my sessions:
Student: “I don’t know how to solve this equation.”
Me: “Copy the original.”
Student: “Ok… (seconds later, and without any further prompting on my part) Ohhh, if I do this, and then this…”
Me: “And you’re correct. You knew how to do this the entire time! Notice how all I told you to do was copy down the information given? You took it from there!”
Student: “Yeah, I guess I do know how to do that!”
So, if you’re a student practicing for the SAT, and you don’t know where to begin with a question, try copying down the information given. You’ll be amazed at home much easier so many questions become!