a teacher helps a student work at her computer

Teachers Must Be Equipped to Guide Students’ Growing Use of AI to Learn Math

Research BriefHealthy SchoolsApr 23 2024



Samantha Holquist and Claire Kelley contributed equally to writing this resource.

Thirty-four percent of high school students in one diverse suburban school district reported using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help them learn math, compared to 16 percent of middle school students.[1] These tools—such as ChatGPT, WolframAlpha, and Photomath—make AI models accessible to lay people. While such tools are best known for their capabilities in reading and writing, our survey results show that students are also using them in math—to perform calculations, explain concepts, and provide answers for assessments. As AI technologies advance and students’ use of AI grows, there is a growing need to create publicly available and accessible resources that help teachers and students productively use AI to support math learning.

This blog is based on survey and focus group findings from the Adapted Measure of Math Engagement project, which is led by the Adapted Measure of Math Engagement Research Group. This group includes five students (Aubrey Caldwell, Antonio Chavira, Brianna Espy, Serrah Ssemukutu, and Diamond Tony-Uduhirinwa), five teachers (Nate Earley, Karina Mazurek, Kathleen Morgan, Karla Rokke, and Ashly Tritch), and five researchers (Marisa Crowder, Samantha E. Holquist, Diane (Ta-Yang) Hsieh, Claire Kelley, and Mark Vincent B. Yu). Alyssa Scott also extensively contributes to this work.

Thirty-four percent of high school students in one diverse suburban school district reported using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help them learn math

“I use Photomath as my last resort [for solving a math problem]. I ask my teacher for help, and if they’re not gonna tell me how to do it, [I] ask my dad. If they’re not gonna tell me, [I] ask my older siblings. If they’re not gonna tell me, I pull out the phone for Photomath.” – Abe, a Black/African American male student at Alexa Canady Middle School

Despite the popularity of AI amongst students, there are significant downsides to using these tools. For example, when used to replace learning, AI applications may inhibit students’ development of computational skills, critical thinking, and communication. Moreover, some tools—especially tools based on large language models—may give inaccurate answers that jeopardize student learning. Finally, AI tools may inadvertently reinforce existing biases and stereotypes in math education, which may influence students’ learning experiences. It is imperative that we teach students to use AI tools to supplement their math learning, especially in the middle school years when students develop productive learning and study habits.

To make AI valuable to students, rather than detrimental, teachers need training and support. Teachers play a pivotal role in guiding how students use AI in their math learning and must grapple with how to handle academic dishonesty and other unproductive student uses of AI. However, there are currently not enough resources to help teachers use AI within their instruction to promote productive student uses. For example, teachers need to understand prompt engineering (i.e., the practice of designing inputs for generative AI that produce optimal outputs) to effectively instruct students on proper and appropriate use. Finally, AI is not well integrated into existing math curricula, making it challenging for teachers to support students in using AI tools productively.


[1] Numbers from authors’ analysis of Adapted Measures of Math Engagement survey data.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grant #2200437. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Suggested citation

Holquist, S., Kelley, C., Scott, A., Hsieh, D., Crowder, M., Yu, M., & Aceves, L. (2024). Teachers must be equipped to guide students’ growing use of AI to learn math. Child Trends. DOI: 10.56417/3810j2584q