Grade school girl gets marked down on her math test even though her calculation was perfect and she showed her work.

As we’ve seen on multiple occasions, some Japanese teachers are extremely strict not just about their students getting the right answer, but in how they arrive at it. For example, just a few months ago we looked at a situation where a kid got marked down for not using the needlessly complex “cherry calculation” method to do basic arithmetic problems.

But today’s topic is on yet another plane of nitpicking. Take a look at this word problem the daughter of Japanese dad and Twitter user @sashishi_EN was asked to solve. The scenario was about making donuts and pudding, with 2/8 of a liter of milk required for the donuts, and 5/8 of a liter for the pudding. @sashishi_EN’ daughter had to figure out how much milk, in total, was needed.

The instructions said for her to show her work, which she did, writing in black pencil. Next to the kanji character 式 in the above photo we can see that she wrote “2/8 + 5/8 = 7/8,” and then at the end, next to 答え, she wrote the final answer, “7/8.”

And yet her teacher still marked her wrong.

Why? According to the teacher’s feedback, written in red ink to the right of the girl’s formula:

“Let’s use a ruler.”

Yep, the poor girl got marked down on her math test because the lines in the middle of her fractions weren’t perfectly horizontal. Never mind that the girl’s notations are completely legible and understandable, or that her actual math is entirely correct. Her penmanship is less than printing press-precise, and that just won’t do.

“What!??” tweeted incredulous dad @sashishi_EN. “You’ve got to be kidding me, right??”, and others who saw his tweet were equally baffled, commenting

“I don’t see anywhere on the paper where it says ‘Use a ruler.’”

“This is clearly the wrong method to tech kids. If the student is a little obsessive, she’ll focus too much on drawing the line straight and won’t be able to concentrate on the calculation. Having to grab a ruler every time just to draw a line will also take much longer, and she might not have time to finish the test within the allotted time.”

“You should totally call the school and complain about this. They might saw you’re overreacting, but I feel bad for your kid being treated like this.”

Alternatively, one commenter said that if the teacher wanted students to use a ruler so badly, they should write their formulas like this.

Now in all fairness, it is possible that even though it’s not written on the portion of the test that can be seen in @sashishi_EN’s photo, the teacher may have otherwise told the students that they had to use a ruler to draw their fraction lines. Yes, that feels like a pretty arbitrary requirement, but teaching kids the importance of listening and following directions is an important part of early child education. But it’s also important for teachers to practice what they preach and serve as good examples of the behavior they expect from their students, and taking another look at the paper, when the teacher wrote “Let’s use a ruler” (じょうぎを使おう in Japanese)…

the teacher’s writing is noticeably drooping at the end, and is far less level than the line in the fraction of @sashishi_EN’s daughter’s final answer. As such, the “Let’s use a ruler requirement” seems not just silly, but hypocritical too, since the teacher is apparently well aware that getting out a straightedge is sometimes a pointless hassle.

When silly school rules crop up, there’s often a chance that the teacher who’s enforcing them didn’t have any part in making them, and has their hands tied with a restrictive curriculum or conduct policy they’ve been assigned by their bosses. In this case, though, the straightness of fraction lines seems like a definite judgement call by the teacher, and a pretty meaningless thing to be fixating on.

There is, thankfully, one silver, or perhaps red, lining to all this. As @sashishi_EN points out, the red “Let’s use a ruler” comment is from the teacher, but the red numbers, with their straighter fraction lines, were written by his daughter, which implies that she was at least given the chance to go back and “correct” her mistakes, even if most people would say she didn’t do anything wrong in the first place.

Source: Twitter/@sashishi_EN via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@sashishi_EN
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