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Readers Respond: Should Math Formulas be Given to Students for Tests?

Responses: 97


Apples and Oranges pretty much sums up the standardized tests and the use of formulas. Sometimes cheat sheets with formulas are provided and sometimes they're not. Should students just be given a list of formulas for tests? Should they really have to memorize them? If so, which ones? How many? Formulas can be looked up from a variety of sources and are readily accessible. Then again, is it worthwhile knowing some of the more important ones? Where do you stand? Your Opinion Counts

Memorized Formulas

Basic formulas are handy if memorized. It wastes time to look up formulas that are in everyday use. I notice that the students/workers needing help are those that don't have the basics memorized. What's so wrong with using the brain to store quick facts or formulas? We have the capacity for it...use it or lose it. What happens when computers or phones go down (and they do)? Everything stops. Computers should be a tool, not the all in all.

Of course you need to remember formulas

If we are talking about a technician - sure they neither need to remember formulas, or have no capacity or need to develop further theories based on existing formulas. This is up to a scientist. On the other hand a scientist needs to remember a lot of formulas, approaches and result. How else can he create something new, if he is clueless about what already exists. Of course, memorizing is of any value only after a complete understanding is achieved; but at this point being able to remember separates people who can create new thing from ones that use wikipedia search for any simplest problem.
—Guest Scientist

Should Math Formulas be memorized

It depends on the degree in which the student is taking. In grades 1-12 (No). If the student is in college and is majoring in a degree that requires formulas that they will have to use daily I would say (Yes).
—Guest Bonnie

Waste of Time

Memorizing formulas is a waste of time. In the real world, formulas are easily accessible with a simple google search. Any idiot can memorize the quadratic formula. What students need to be tested on is their ability to put it to use.
—Guest Sir

maths formulas

They should not be memorized. But rather a way should be adopted to learn and apply them in teaching and learning.
—Guest wayem

not really

if maths formulas are given students,they may not want to know the logic or sources of such formulas and when needed outside the test, they would be "BLANK"about it. If known, they could express their opinion,but in some cases the pressure maybe be too high in the test thereby making some student forget some formulas learnt [this might lead to failure].
—Guest fabohns


Yes! I have been teaching Maths/ Science for over 30 years & was a laboratory technician before that for many years. 1. Science. No laboratory is without a Periodic table(the chemists bible),yet certain parts of this table are expected to be memorised at school! 2. Maths : the formulae that students are expected to memorise are not part of everyone's career necessities. I do not know any mathematicians but I am sure that they have data tables which they consult. Many actuaries that I do know have these tables needed for their job. If students were allowed to have formulae sheets, the teacher can find time to make sure the students understand the basic principles on which these formulae are based. In real life, most employees are given the necessary resources for their work. In laboratories, technicians have the analytical methods on cards,so that they can carry out the tests. Unless you are want to be an academic/mathematician, no formulae memorisation should be expected from students
—Guest Brenda

Should formulas be memorized

I think we need to teach to understanding and perhaps the most useful formulas memorized. In real life situations/problems formulas do not always work!
—Guest Debra

Math Formulas

I once had a math tutor that was surprised that I remembered math formulas. Like I was some type of cheat!
—Guest Steven

Proof of Formula's

Definitely not, I am currently a Extension 1 Maths student in New South Wales, Australia, and for our class tests and the state test we are expected to know over 200 formulas and geometrical proofs. In NSW proofs for formula's are heavily emphasized so every student should be able to both understand the concepts of mathematics and effectively apply these formulas in mathematical problems. In the HSC exam (state exam), memorizing formulas only, but not understanding the logic behind them, will only place you in the top 50% of the state. The teachers and academics write out the HSC exams, in a way so that the students must apply these formulas instead of simply plotting in the variables and getting an answer.
—Guest HSC student


If we focus on teaching theory and practical application so that our students know WHEN and HOW to use the formulas then our job is done. Memorizing formulas is useless and takes up precious storage space in our brains as well as precious study time simply to memorize. There will never be a scenario in the real world where I have to pull a calculus formula out of memory to calculate the volume of an object. Formulas will not do anyone any good if they do not know how to apply them. It's for this reason that students will still have to learn and apply themselves even if given formulas on exams. I challenge you to give someone a sheet of calculus formulas who has never attended a calculus class and see how well they do on an exam. Formulas are just tools, just as a wrench is to a mechanic. I also challenge you to go to your mechanic and ask him to diagnose and repair your car using no tools, only his memory. Have fun buying a new car. (Engineering Student/Former Mechanic)
—Guest Neil

Yes and No

Basic formulas often used in life should be memorized so we can get use to using the logic. Other formulas can be often derived from the basic formulas, so its better to learn HOW to derive them. Then there are the esoteric equations that need not be memorized, but students should know where to find them if needed. (Math Teacher)
—Guest Mr.R.


—Guest yes

Application of formulas

Formulas shouldn't be memorized because they can be easily accessible. The instructor is likely to lack teaching skills if he or she tests learners based on memorized facts. I was so impressed with my prof who allowed the class to have a take-home comprehensive exam. Now with life and work experience, I consider that the most important lesson in business school for me. Testing memorized fact is a cope out for teachers. They are doing students a disservice.

math and language

Having grown up before calculators and computers I was taught the old fashioned way i.e. rote memorization. That worked well for passing the test but not for understanding. My opinion is that math is a language skill, Using the tv series Numbers as an example, the main character uses formulas to describe his environment like most of us use words. He had an understanding of how to apply the formulas and concepts, similar to learning both word and definition in language. I believe that most of my peers were taught and forced to memorize the formulas [i.e. the words] but not the practical application there of[i.e the definition] hence they promptly forgot it. I believe that we must reach some middle ground here. The reason I can remember how to speak to you is I use language every day. If I was to use formulas every day in a practical way they would become everyday language. Since I don't use them this frequently I need and use a dictionary. Maybe students should too.

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Should Math Formulas be Given to Students for Tests?

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