5 reasons why writing down workings is vital to learning (even when you are working online!)

  1. You learn more, faster
  2. Understand where you made a mistake
  3. Allows you to get help
  4. Develops problem-solving skills
  5. Prepares you for exams

Remote learning, homeschooling, Zoom lessons – whatever we call it, it’s a new way of learning that so many of us had never experienced before school closures hit. And it wasn’t just a few things that moved online, most of the education space was transformed in one way or another – in the first month of the pandemic,
active users of Google Classroom doubled to 100 million

We all had to adapt and become quickly flexible over the past year, whether that meant transforming our home into an office, juggling work and homeschooling or simply adjusting to a new way of life. 

Online learning was a saviour to schools, teachers and learners not only because it made it easier to stay in touch and run virtual lessons, but it also meant that learners could get help on-demand and with learning delivered at the right level for them (yes, with the help of artificial intelligence). 

Now, after speaking to more schools and families, we know that online learning isn’t going anywhere. And with this in mind, we want to make sure that written workings don’t slip from our minds and help everyone understand just how important they are. Here’s why…

You learn more, faster

Working out maths mentally means that learners are keeping a lot of information in their head. Don’t get us wrong, being able to do mental maths is great (we remember chanting 2 x 2 = 4 at the dinner table) but trying to work out a difficult sum in your head with multiple steps means you’re more likely to make a mistake and that there is much less brain-power for learning.

Helps learners understand mistakes

Getting questions wrong is probably the most important part of learning! Every mistake is an opportunity to learn a little bit more and improve work f

or next time. So, when learners have written their workings down, it is so much easier to go back over the problem and unpick where the mistake was made and correct it. It’s much more effective than starting the whole question again!

Helps learners get support

If a learner is struggling with a question, having their workings written down will help someone (parent, teacher or friend) to identify the potential gaps in their knowledge and then tailor their support to where it is most needed – no need to waste any time!

Develops problem-solving skills

Sometimes, knowing where to start when you see a question for the first time is tricky enough! By writing down workings, learners will be able to keep a track of the strategies they’ve tried and work their way towards a solution to the problem no matter how tricky it is.

Amazing exam preparation 

Exams aren’t just about getting the right answer – learners will also be marked on their workings. If workings are written out clearly, it’s super easy for the examiner to see that the learner knows what they are doing, so even if the answer is wrong or there is a small mistake, marks can still be picked up. 

How does this fit into learning maths with Sparx Maths?

Help videos show worked examples 

Every video in Sparx Maths/Numerise contains a worked example, similar to the problem that the learner is currently solving. This video is designed to not only help unstick the learner, but also provide a well-modelled solution to help thelearner layout their own working.

Bookwork checks

Sparx Maths will occasionally ask learners to input an answer they have given to a previous question. These bookwork checks are designed to make sure that learners are writing down as they complete their work and questions.

Answers on a different screen to the question

We ask learners to input their answers on a different screen to the question. This is purposefully done so that students can’t simply memorise the answer but have to write down their workings and refer back to them to move onto the next question.


Occasionally, Sparx Maths will ask questions in the form of quizzes. Similar to a test, these quizzes allow students to focus on the question, writing down their workings as they go, before asking students to input all of their answers at the end of the quiz.

Some related external evidence