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Is handwriting becoming obsolete in the classroom?

By Jake Erichson

Do you think we should get rid of handwritten work in math classrooms?

I was recently deep in conversation with the parent of a high school student who’s currently struggling with Algebra. We started talking about students writing out their work, to which the parent exclaimed “Yeah, but kids these days won’t need to write anything by hand once they grow up! Everything will be on computers in the future, so schools shouldn’t even be bothering with handwritten work.”

And the parent had a point: many math assignments are already moving away from handwriting. Most digital math platforms that exist today prompt students to type in their solution – either line by line or just the answer – and some software even allows students to drag parts of an equation around to combine like terms. While these platforms speed up grading significantly, they limit student learning.

At Renota, we think handwriting should stay in the math classroom. Here’s why:

  1. Writing by hand improves brain activity and increases memory retention
  2. Handwriting is slower than typing, encouraging students to fully think through their problem-solving process and answer
  3. Showing your work is critical to receiving valuable feedback, and writing out work by hand is the best way to show your full process

Right now, however, handwritten work is so much more complicated for teachers to deal with than digital alternatives. Teachers need to print, pass out, and collect all the physical worksheets. It’s cumbersome for students to submit anything virtually because there is limited infrastructure to accept handwritten work. And it takes hours for teachers to review the hundreds of completed problems they receive every day. In fact, we estimate it would take teachers 3.75 hours every day to fully grade and provide feedback on all the work students submit. It’s only natural that a lot of math assessments and homework has moved to multiple choice questions or online tools that automatically check if the answer is right or wrong.

We can do better. Let’s not sacrifice student outcomes by getting rid of handwriting. Instead, we need to give teachers better tools to review handwritten work and support their students.

At Renota, we want to achieve the best of both worlds by allowing students to benefit from writing by hand and by providing teachers with technology to deliver automated grading and more efficient feedback. And no, it’s not too good to be true.

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