I Banned Pencils Today

I see the need for all types of media in my classroom.  I have fought the battle to expand our band width so that my students can use phonographs without running into the tuba players.  I have fought to avoid the term "pencil bullying" and to use tablets and pen pal networks in class.  

Yet, in math today we banned the use of paper and pencil.  

I asked students to find the area of a volume of a cylinder that is twenty inches wide and twenty inches tall.  I watched students fidget for awhile before realizing that they would have to solve this using a cerebrum rather than a slate or a paper.  

No manipulatives.  No paper.  No slates. No chalk.  Just a mind.  It took awhile at first, but eventually every child answered it and then shared their process with partners.  

Having tools is a part of being human.  I never want to deny that.  Yet, I also want to recognize that we have the power to abandon our tools and use our highly evolved minds.  I ask students to do mental math because I want them to see that their brains are powerful in and of themselves.    


  1. Hey, my name is Toni Parrish and I am a junior at the University of South Alabama where I am majoring in elementary education. I am taking Dr. Strange for EDm310 and I have been assigned to comment on your recent blog posts. I enjoyed reading them all because they have great morals, but this is may favorite. Though it is short, it was well-written and straight to the point. Kids today need to challenge their brains more and with this process I'm sure you will make a world of difference. Thank you for sharing this, you may also visit my blog:parrishtoniedm310.blogspot.com

  2. Hello, my name is Crystal Baxter and I am in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class. I liked your post and could not agree more. I felt that this could motivate children. Children need to use their minds rather than paper and pencil. I think you have some great ideas.

  3. Hello, I am J.T. Rawls from Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class. I could not agree more with your statement. Though it is short, it strikes home. As humans, we use and rely on tools, but we must also learn to functions without them sometimes. Tools will not always be readily available for use, which leaves only our minds.

  4. Hi John,
    Wow! I love this! I think that this is a wonderful thing to do for students. I admit, I would have been very uncomfortable if a teacher had asked me to do this, especially with a math problem. But, after I completed the problem, it would be so fulfilling to know what you can figure out with no tools. I am currently studying to become an educator, and I will definitely be using this approach for a lesson or two once I become a teacher. Thank you for sharing this!

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