I've just received my son's 6th grade homework guidelines, which include the following provisions about a particular homework contingency:
The "I Don't Understand It" Homework (receives full credit)These guidelines also require children who do understand the problems to explain their answers, and, though they don't say so explicitly, the protocol at our school is to deny full credit to unexplained answers, however correct.
If you genuinely do not understand all or part of a problem, you must copy it completely, and explain in sentences what steps you took to try to do the problem. Write down the questions that you would ask me if I were with you. It is not enough to say, "I don't understand."
Please have your parent sign your homework. This signature is worth 1/2 pt extra credit!
Thus, the math buff who can't be bothered to explain why 49 * 5 is 245 does worse than the math phobe who can't solve this problem but is happy to write down all his questions about how to do it.
Here's another question he might ask his teacher:
When selecting a plumber or surgeon, do you pick someone who does the job well but refuses to explain how, or someone who articulately elaborates for you all the ways in which he or she is stumped?