Resources: Genius vs Cheating

Have you ever spent time searching for the perfect resource to help your child with their learning, only for them to say ‘I can’t use that, it’s cheating?’

I have, more times than I care to remember, often after creating the perfect resource just for them! It is frustrating, why do they think like that? This is something I have been pondering after this week’s community poll. As parents, resources are seen as a tool, something to support learning and understanding, however, as a student resources are seen as making the learning easier, they mean you are not able to do the task…it means cheating!

This is a huge mindset shift to change in children. Often, in the classroom the students who do not gather some resources finish the task first. To students finishing first, or quickly is seen as a sign of good maths and this is what they strive for. However, in my experience in the classroom those early finishers were often returning to their tables with corrections to make, because they didn’t check what they were doing, or use the resources available. 

Physical resources are often seen by students as intended for younger children to use, this is because in those classrooms they are freely available for the children to access as and when they want them. They are even praised for choosing them to help them in their work. As children get older, the resources are not as easy to locate, they have to ask, this causes them embarrassment and they would rather struggle than encounter that. It is essential that we have practical lessons in maths, just as we would in science, where all the resources are out and available for children to explore the maths. After this lesson, resources should be freely available for children to collect as and when they need them, they shouldn’t have to ask. This removes the stigma from using resources. In my own classroom I regularly battled with children to use tools to support them, that’s why they were there. Eventually they felt that using resources was an entirely normal thing to do, freely selecting the tools they needed for the job at hand.

The definition of a resource is a source or supply of support. There is nothing there about it relating to cheating, not answering the maths correctly or being less able than a peer. We all think and learn in different ways, the world would be a very boring place if we didn’t. Through resources and maths discussions students will quickly develop their maths skills. When introducing a new concept it is vital that resources are available to support the learning, the working memory can only manage so much at a time. 

In conclusion I believe that the use of resources to undertake mathematical questions is genius not cheating. The individual student picks from a plethora of tools to decide which is right for the job, before applying their existing skills to the problem. This is learning in the highest order, it couldn’t be further from the theories of cheating!

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