top of page

Why Students Can Use Calculators and Formula Sheets in Mathematics Exams

Students today can use calculators and formula sheets in their mathematics examinations. Is this ok? This video gives the rational for why the students get these aids unlike many years ago.


Good morning! This is Jason Ursino from Learning Space, and I'm driving to school. Today, I'm going to be talking about a question that I sometimes get about mathematics exams: Why can students use calculators? And why do students have formula sheets? Do they have it easy? Well, not really.

So, this is an interesting one. At the end of the day, it's all about what the assessment is about. What exactly are we testing? Are we testing the memory of the student? Are we testing their basic arithmetic, or are we testing their analytical skills mathematically? It's not very impressive that if a student can add numbers in their head or multiply some sort of algorithmic way on a piece of paper, that's something that students have done early on in primary school, in high school. We want students to be able to have that high-level thinking, being able to pick skills from various places to answer one particular question.

The reason why we also give the formula sheet, or they're actually called reference sheets. Reference sheets are a list of all the formulas that the students can use. It's not impressive that a student can memorize the quadratic formula or any other formula. We live in a day and age where memory is not that important. If you need something, you just simply need to Google it. So we don't want to test to see if a student can memorize a formula, because in everyday life, if they need that formula, they can simply just Google it. So, in an exam, in an exam context, we give them a list of formulas or a reference sheet, just like they would have at their disposal in everyday life.

However, what we are interested in is their thinking, their high-level thinking. If they can answer a particular question that requires them to pick particular skills from various different topics to answer a particular question, then that's what we impress by. They can have a calculator, they can have a list of formulas, but if they are able to understand a question and get through the question, and when it has five or six different steps, that is what we're impressed with. So the main reason why we get students into an exam context with calculators and reference sheets is because we are interested in seeing what they can do with their thinking skills, not with their memory or with their basic arithmetic.

If you like my videos, there are more of them at and have a good day.

9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page