I've been a part of a handful of conversations lately that go something like this:

"On the quiz last week, students were asked to label their graphs.  Half the class didn't, so I took off two points."

"Oh, really?  That's pretty frustrating."

"On the test today, guess what?  The same kids forgot to label their graphs.  I tell you, Matt, it was right there in the directions...you'd think they learned...."

We (math teachers) think that taking off points for incorrect or missing labels, forgetting to answer part of a question or not turning in homework is THE solution.  Does it really work though?  In my experience, for the most part, the same students continue to make the same mistakes over and over.  They need to be taught soft skills of becoming more detailed readers and writers or following directions carefully - some of them need help...reading!  By taking off points, what message are we sending to students?

I don't know the answer.  Maybe more critical conversations with students rather than relying on points and grades to do the talking?  Thoughts?  Leave 'em in the comments.