Math Wheels for Note-taking?

How to Handle Cheating in Math Classrooms

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Use these helpful tips and tricks to help avoid and handle cheating in math classrooms this year.


I vividly remember the first time I caught one of my students cheating during my very first year of teaching. It was like my rose-colored glasses as a new teacher suddenly shattered. At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around why a student would make that choice. As I gained more experience and continued to see cheating in math, I started to understand that there were a variety of reasons why my students resorted to it. So today, I want to share those reasons with you and explain how I handle cheating in math with my students.

Why Cheating in Math Happens

As teachers, we all work to be aware of the baggage that our kiddos carry into class each day. Below are various reasons I see repeatedly that may lead to cheating in math.

Pressure to Perform

One reason why there is cheating in math classrooms may because your students feel pressure to perform on tests or exams.

Early on in my career, I noticed there was this pressure to perform. Some of our students feel immense pressure to get good grades. This pressure could come from their parents, peers, or even themselves. This pressure can be intense, especially if they have high-achieving siblings or if they’re aiming to move up to a certain class and earn scholarships and college admissions. They believe that cheating is the only way to meet those high expectations and avoid disappointing the people they care about.

Cheating in Math Due to Lack of Confidence

Then, there’s the lack of confidence. Many students don’t trust their own abilities. They think they won’t be able to solve the problems on their own. This often stems from past struggles with math or a fear of failure. They might have had experiences where they’ve tried their best and still fell short, so they start to believe that cheating in math is their only option to succeed.

Time Management

Often, students don't yet now how to manage their test taking time well.

Another big factor is time management. Juggling schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and personal life can be overwhelming. Some of our students have part-time jobs, family responsibilities, or packed schedules with sports and clubs. When they’re short on time, some of them see cheating in math as a quick fix to keep up with everything. They might think, “Just this once,” but it can quickly become a habit.

Disconnect With Material

There’s also sometimes a disconnect with the material. If a student doesn’t see the relevance of what they’re learning, they’re less likely to engage and more likely to take shortcuts. They might think, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” This lack of motivation can lead to disengagement and, eventually, to cheating as an easier way out.

Impact of Technology

Another reason you might find students cheating in math is the influence of technology.

Also, let’s not forget the influence of technology. With smartphones and other gadgets, accessing answers has never been easier. Websites with solutions, apps that solve problems, and even group chats where answers are shared make it incredibly tempting. The temptation is right there in their pockets, making it hard to resist, especially during stressful times like exams.

Understanding these reasons helps me address the root causes and better support my students. By knowing why they cheat, I can create strategies to help them build confidence, manage their time, and find relevance in their studies. Now, let’s talk about how I tackle cheating in my classroom!

How to Handle Cheating in Math

We all have been in a position where math class stressed us out or even scared us. Or, we have probably also run tight on time and realized we forgot our assignments, so we made a split-second decision that may not have been the most morally sound. From talking with other colleagues, reading articles, and just from experience, it’s all about creating an environment where our students feel supported and motivated to succeed honestly. Here are some of the top solutions I have found to handle cheating in math.

Build Rapport with Students

Building a rapport with your students helps them as learners and as individuals.

I focus on building a strong rapport with my students. At the end of the day, I want them to know that I care about them not just as learners but as individuals. I take the time to listen to their concerns and understand their struggles. When they feel respected and valued, they’re less likely to cheat because they don’t want to let me down. They’re motivated to do well and maintain that trust between themselves and me.

Learn from Mistakes

Next, I emphasize the importance of learning from mistakes. Why would pencils be made with erasers if we weren’t supposed to make mistakes? I make it clear that making errors is a natural part of the learning process. My students would tell you that in almost every class I say mistakes are proof that you are trying. I encourage a growth mindset by celebrating effort and improvement rather than just perfect scores. When students see that it’s okay to struggle and that their efforts are appreciated, they become more willing to tackle challenges head-on.

Practice and Provide Feedback to Avoid Cheating in Math

Pulling small groups and providing opportunities for practice and feedback are helpful in building confidence in students abilities.

I also provide plenty of opportunities for practice and feedback. Regular quizzes, homework assignments, and classwork help me gauge where my students are at and offer timely feedback. I frequently pull small groups or individual students to give them more individualized attention. This way, we can review the steps, do some reinforcement, and answer any questions they may have. This continuous loop of practice and feedback helps them build confidence in their abilities and reduces the temptation to cheat.

Time Management and Study Skills

Another key strategy I use is teaching effective time management and study skills. I share tips on how to organize their study schedules, break down tasks into manageable chunks, and prioritize their workload. We even hold time management workshops, where we discuss strategies and create study plans together. You can do this as a whole class before a big test, or it can be individualized based on the student. When students feel more in control of their time, they’re less likely to resort to cheating out of desperation.

Technology

Instead of banning technology, integrate it into your teaching with online resources that promote learning.

I integrate technology positively in my teaching. Instead of banning devices, I incorporate them into my lessons through educational apps and online resources that promote learning. Make sure to check your school policies because some apps may not work for usage at your school. I also talk openly about the ethical use of technology and the consequences of cheating. By guiding students on how to use technology responsibly as a tool, I help them make better choices.

Explain the “Why”

I try to make math relevant and engaging. I connect math concepts to real-life scenarios and their interests. Whether it’s calculating the stats for their favorite sports team or understanding the math behind video games, showing the practical side of math keeps them interested and motivated to learn. I know we sometimes get annoyed when they ask us why over and over. Once we explain why, we will help to create buy-in for the material. When our students are interested and engaged, they are more willing to explore and get more out of the lesson.

But Sometimes. . .

Even if you do all the things above, you still might be faced with a student cheating in math class. First off, just know that catching a student cheating is not an indication of you as a teacher. Instead of getting mad, handle the situation in a calm and consistent fashion. Approach the student individually and ask them about the situation. Calling them out in class or in front of their peers is likely to just make the situation worse.

Talk with a student one on one when cheating occurs.

After talking with them, use your best judgment as to the next steps. It might be that they can redo the assignment with different problems, they have to take a low grade, or they receive an office referral. Chances are, your school or district likely has some guidelines in place regarding cheating. Make sure you are familiar with those so you can apply them if needed.

Finally, if needed, get creative with the manner in which you give assignments. You can assign different problems to different class periods, or change up the problem order and have a few different versions of the assignment.

Cheating in Math is Avoidable

Building strong relationships, providing feedback, teaching time management, and integrating technology are all positives to helping our students not cheat during math.

Cheating in math is avoidable when we understand the reasons behind it and address them with compassion and strategy.

By being proactive with some of the reasons that cause students to cheat, we can create a classroom culture where cheating is not needed. Let’s work together to foster integrity and a genuine love for learning in our classrooms.

Looking for More Resources?

Check out these popular posts to address other common problem areas in middle school math classrooms.

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Ellie

Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!

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