Leona Mona August 9, 2020 worksheets
In 1986, mimeograph machines were (for the most part) replaced by digital copiers in elementary schools. Those of us teachers who experienced using mimeograph machines will forever remember the distinct smell of the still-damp, purple-ink worksheets that we handed out to our students – by the ream full. (If you’re like me, you can remember that smell right now!)
Some free worksheets are not good quality – the pictures are fuzzy, backgrounds print grey or speckled – and children tend to notice these things. If you are using the worksheets to educate your child, you may want to choose good quality worksheets that encourage your child to produce good quality work. After all, it’s a little difficult to ask your child to color within the lines and work neatly when the worksheet they are filling in hasn’t done the same.
I have said ”Don’t Use Worksheets” about every way there is to say it, and each time I have included solid brain-based, researched reasons for this statement; and yet, I know that many people will ignore the science in favor of the convenience. It is very difficult to fight the tide when there are so many internet sites pushing worksheets at parents, and so many reputable textbook companies doing likewise. It is difficult to remember the reasons to avoid them when one has very little time to devote to working with math. Worksheets just seem so much easier than doing things any other way. Can they really cause harm?
Students can certainly benefit from practicing new skills and concepts on paper. From letters and numbers to report summary formats, worksheets can provide students with a framework for practice – an avenue for synthesizing new information in their brains. Well designed worksheets can also give students a platform for expressing creative ideas and reaching towards higher levels of thinking.
Then along came digital copiers and the purple-ink mimeograph machine disappeared. But the teaching tool that the mimeograph machine spawned – the worksheet – has lived on… and on… and on. For decades – literally decades – teachers have been enamored with worksheets. So what is the bottom line? Are worksheets a serious teaching tool or an over-used form of busy work? The answer, of course, is both.
The answer, of course, is YES they can. In my perfect world of mathematics education, no pre-school child is ever exposed to a worksheet of any kind. I would swing my magic wand, all worksheets would disappear, and the memory of them would be gone forever. In the real world, I know that simply won’t happen. There will still be some parents who will insist on using worksheets.
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