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Tutoring Tips: Backchecking

Backchecking is a Key Tutoring Strategy

The principle of backchecking applies to all subjects. This means that your student will be doing every step of each problem twice as she works her way through a question or assignment.  We will outline examples that apply to Mathematics, as well as to the Arts, Social/Natural Sciences, and Humanities.

  • In Mathematics, backchecking means that your student will be doing every step of her solution twice, as she works her way through a problem. Model this for your student. For example, with this mathematics question, 3×2 – 5×7, you would hear your student say as she was writing out the solution “3 times 2 is 5 – let me check – no 3 x 2 is 6 – minus 5 times 7 is minus 35 – let me check – minus 5 x 7 is minus 35 ….”
  • In the Social Sciences and Humanities, where essay and short answer writing are central, backchecking involves three components:  The student must be sure to read her teacher’s assignment before, during and after she generates a written answer.  Before she begins writing, she should understand what is required of her.  This is easily done by breaking down assignments into component parts.  For example, if the teacher has assigned students to prepare a 150-word news article about their favourite icon, the student should ask herself, “What is being asked of me?”  She may need help from you to understand that she may break her assignment down into the Five W’s and One H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) to write an effective paper.  If these words were written on a blank sheet, she could easily brainstorm answers to the smaller questions that they pose, and in so doing, prepare herself for writing her actual assignment.  While she writes, she should be sure to include all of the points that she has written down while brainstorming. After she writes, she should edit her work for grammar and spelling, and then have it edited by a peer, tutor, or parent.  Most importantly, she should read the teacher’s assignment sheet as well as her own answer, and pretend that she’s marking it herself. She should then ask herself, “Have I fulfilled all of the requirements that the teacher has asked for?”

Although initially this may seem time consuming, once it becomes automatic, a great deal of time will be saved. Ensure that your student is back checking all the time. Don`t just remind her when she makes a mistake, because then she is relying on you to tell her when she has made a mistake, and you will not be with her at home and in the classroom.  Marks of students who are prone to ‘careless’ mistakes can increase by 15% with this strategy alone.


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