Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Math is Harder When Using an iPad

Photo taken by Christine Cousins
I do not use a lot of worksheets in my math program.  So much so, that last week, I gave a worksheet during math to my grade 2 students to do and one of my students cheered.  CHEERED! For a worksheet!  I asked the child in my class why she cheered.  I figured that she would have responded with, "I like worksheets."  If she had answered that way, I would have been fine with that. I believe that we all have our own learning preferences and some children enjoy doing worksheets.  However I would never have anticipated what she said to me.  She responded with,

"I like doing worksheets better than using the iPads because I don't have to think as much."  

I was speechless for a second... then I dug deeper and asked her to explain how worksheets are easier.  She responded with, 

"On the iPads, I have to show my work, explain my thinking and make sure it is my best work because someone other than you might see it on my blog or on Twitter."  

"Wowza!" (I actually said that out loud to my student) she giggled and I continued thinking about what she had said.

In other words, there are two major reasons (other than they are engaging and fun) to continue using the iPads and social media during math class:

  1. Using the iPads leads to a higher level of understanding because students have to explain their thinking with pictures, numbers, words AND their voice. 
  2.  If you use social media in your classroom like we do, it leads to higher quality work because there is a larger audience that may see the student's work.  
As I continued to think about what my student had said, I thought about the recent math activities that we had done on the iPad.  My student was right.  It typically takes longer to complete a task on the iPad because there are multiple tasks that need to be completed.  We usually do an anchor chart with the learning goals and success criteria for the task.

An example of a finished product Sidhak's Skeleton

An example of a finished product Ryan's Blog

Could I have handed out worksheets for the students on these two math concepts?  Of course.  Would it have taken less time?  Probably.  Do I think they gained a better understanding of the concepts?  Definitely!  I also love using these pieces for assessment purposes.  These two examples were completely done independently and I can go back to their blogs and look at their work whenever I want to.  So can their parents.  A very powerful tool if I do say so myself.

Will I continue to use the iPads and use worksheets on some days?  Of course. In fact, I gave out a worksheet today for my students to complete.  They said, "It was an easy math class today."  Hmmm, maybe I need to give them harder worksheets...


  1. Oh, yes....not only is it deeper thinking for a student, but it requires more thought and preparation for a teacher. Net result? Authentic learning!

  2. Thanks for the thought-provoking post! I've been thinking a lot about it since I read it last night. I completely understand what you're saying here, and as someone that's given up worksheets this year, I get what your student's saying too. Here's the thing: shouldn't we always be encouraging students to think? If the worksheet is "easier," and doesn't allow this to happen, why use it? Maybe students need to see that be it a worksheet or an iPad, that this thinking and problem solving are things to celebrate.

    When I started the year, my students struggled with the additional thinking that comes along with meaningful math. Now though, they embrace it! My principal and vice principal have been great with coming by and giving students "hard questions" that force them to think more. And when we last shared our math work in class, students were actually disappointed that they couldn't come because they wanted these "hard questions." How do we get all students to see the value in thinking? This has been a big wonder of mine lately, and I'd be curious to hear what others have to say ...


  3. I have numbered my ipads and assigned an ipad for 2-3 students. Allows for them to share it and for someone to be accountable for things looked up on the internet.

  4. Wow! That is incredible and so true. The iPads take students places they may never have gone without them. I wish every student had access to such a great tool!