leo drawingsWhen we type the word “Leonardo” in Google, the undisputed results are “Leonardo DiCaprio” and “Leonardo Da Vinci”. Leonardo DiCaprio is an A-lister in today’s generation, but Leonardo Da Vinci was a universal Renaissance Man, and believed nature is governed by math.

Even when Leonardo learned the language of mathematics, he preferred to express his thoughts through his art. His search for mathematical solutions is seen through his artwork and rough drawings.  Leonardo Da Vinci wasn’t the only person that used drawings to calculate math.  Drawing was how some ancient civilizations calculated mathematical precisions in their constructions, which is exhibited in the Egyptian pyramids.
Many things can be observed about Leonardo’s method of learning.  He showed his work.  He entertained his curiosity through writing and drawing. Students that lack confidence in math think that they are only good at mathematics if they can “do it their head”.  Not true!  Some of history’s greatest thinkers–Albert Einstein, Leonard Da Vinci, and Sir Issac Newton–made great discoveries by writing down their thoughts and theories–not by just computing numbers in their heads.

Why Should You Show Your Work?

Students should learn like Leo.  There is power in writing things down:

1)  Writing helps your memory
2)  Writing help you work through problems faster and easier
3)  Writing helps you create goals and find ways to reach them
4)  Writing encourages creative thinking

When math is part of the equation, writing things down is even more important: 

  • Showing your work in an organized way helps you organize your thoughts, which in turn makes you less likely to make a mistake.
  • On homework, usually you have answers available. If your answer doesn’t match the book’s answer, showing your work helps you figure out what you did wrong. It can also help a tutor figure out what you did wrong, if you go for help.
  • On tests, if you get a wrong answer your instructor can use your work to figure out what you didn’t understand, and point it out so that you avoid that mistake in the future.
  • If you get a wrong answer on a test, but your work shows you understood the core of the problem, most instructors will allow partial credit.  A bare answer that is wrong has to count as a zero.

Today’s students can reach success in mathematics through writing.  There is power in the pencil!!


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Amy Adams
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