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Classroom Technology From Our Research Center

25 Bad Uses of Tech to Avoid When Teaching Math, According to Teachers

By Arianna Prothero — September 18, 2023 1 min read
Photo of bored boy using laptop computer.
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Concerns about the use of technology in math class are nothing new. Calculators, the internet, and smartphones have each raised alarms that they would short-circuit students’ math learning.

Who knows, maybe even teachers of yore fretted over the abacus making their students lazy.

But as tech use in schools accelerates and new tools—think of those powered by artificial intelligence—hit the market, this tension between technology and math instruction is only poised to tighten.

So, what have we learned thus far about the do’s and don’ts of using tech in the math classroom? In a national survey, the EdWeek Research Center recently asked teachers this open-ended question: “What are some examples of how technology is used poorly to teach math?”

More than 300 responded. Below is a sample of 25 answers that capture some of the biggest themes to emerge from the responses we received. Taken together, they serve as a cautionary note for how not to use technology to teach math.

1   "Using a program just because it came with curriculum."

— Elementary teacher, Illinois

2   "Putting students on a Chromebook with a math program that is not linked to the lessons or units of study in class."

— Teacher, Michigan

3   "When technology is replacing the instruction, modeling, and assessments."

— Elementary teacher, Louisiana

4   "Students are not always engaged with technology like they are with humans."

— Elementary teacher, Indiana

5   "When technology is solely used to teach math without any hands-on activities."

— Elementary teacher, California

6   "Technology is used over manipulatives. The hands-on, multisensory aspect is missing when using technology."

— Elementary teacher, North Carolina

7   "Students being assigned math games as busywork."

— Elementary teacher, Pennsylvania

8   "Endless online mini-quizzes with no grounding in real-world situations or needs."

— Middle school teacher, New York

9   "Utilizing the wrong digital tools for a specific task. Most technology is not stellar for graphing linear inequalities."

— High school teacher, Ohio

10   "Too much technology and not enough use of manipulatives and paper-pencil activities to demonstrate work."

— Elementary teacher, California

11   "Used as a babysitter while teacher meets with small group."

— Elementary teacher, Kansas

12   "Too much use of digital math programs results in underdeveloped written skills. Usage of computers to practice math also discourages students to show their work."

— Middle school teacher, Kentucky

13   "Calculators are used too early in the educational process resulting in students not knowing number facts. Therefore, they do not develop a genuine feel for numbers and how they work."

— High school teacher, Massachusetts

14   "Students don't think they need to write problems down or show their work. They even say, ‘Why can't I just Google the answer?’ Other times, they just guess; most programs let them try the problems multiple times."

— Middle school teacher, Massachusetts

15   "Too much reliance on using a calculator for basic computations!"

— Middle school teacher, Oklahoma

16   "There is no feedback [from the software program] for students to learn from mistakes, and teachers cannot see student work or answers to know how to help."

— Elementary teacher, California

17   "Games that focus on speed and take away from deeper conceptual understanding."

— Elementary teacher, Illinois

18   "When a program is simply used for a time filler. There needs to be a purpose and way to evaluate the data."

— Elementary teacher, Kansas

19   "Web-based assignments that offer little to no feedback on progress/growth."

— Middle school teacher, North Carolina

20   "Students are playing math games too often during the day instead of the teacher guiding instruction at the elementary level. Technology should be used if you can track the data."

— Elementary teacher, Michigan

21   "When students are put in front of a computer screen to learn new material without the support of a teacher."

— Elementary teacher, Ohio

22   "Relying fully on math programs to teach the concepts. In my opinion, technology or computer programs should only be used to practice the concepts that have already been taught."

— Elementary school teacher, Tennessee

23   "When kids can pick what they want to work on. It often turns out to be lower-level material/practice."

— Elementary teacher, Illinois

24   "Using technology for the sake of using it, like having students fill out answers on a computer rather than turning in their work."

— High school teacher, Pennsylvania

25   "Technology in the hands of the students becomes too easily a distraction from classroom instruction. When students are allowed to use their technology, they must be constantly monitored, which takes away from instructional time."

— Middle school teacher, California

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