Cost Comparison: iPad Mathematics Classroom vs. Traditional Classroom

Comparing the Costs of an iPad Classroom to the Traditional

Although the main goal when I proposed the Tap Into Teen Minds iPad Project was to increase engagement and student achievement in the mathematics classroom, I also wanted to eliminate items used in the traditional mathematics classroom and determine whether costs could also be reduced simultaneously.

I have completed two cost summaries below which compare a school using a semester timetable with 30 students in each of the six courses a single mathematics teacher would teach over the school year.

iPad Classroom Item List and Costs

Item Purpose Cost
Class Set of iPads Used to complete digital worksheets, online practice such as Khan Academy, submit “clicker” quizzes, create digital portfolios in the cloud with Dropbox, and essentially replace all other technologies in the classroom.

$419 x 30 iPads
Bretford PowerSync Cart Charge, store, & secure iPads in a central location. $2,499 iPad Covers & Screen Protectors Protect the iPads from daily wear, tear, & damage. $225.85
MacBook / Laptop Syncing iPads $949
LCD Projector Display content from computer via iPad using Splashtop Remote Desktop or similar $600
Apple TV Allow teacher and students to mirror their iPad screen through the projector and explain their process and thinking $99
TOTAL COST $16,942.85

Traditional “Digital” Classroom Item List and Costs

Item Purpose Cost
Paper Used to print TIPS4RM Style worksheets & lessons on a daily basis.

Avg. of 6 sheets per day x 194 days of school x 180 students = 209,520 Sheets of Paper

$45 for 5,000 sheets
Photocopier Toner Used to actually print all worksheets.

$207.99 for 25,000 sheets
Eliminate Textbooks Typically used as question banks in secondary rather than an actual learning tool.

$80 x 90 textbooks
TI-83 Graphing Calculators Used to meet the technology expectations of all secondary mathematics courses.

$129.99 x 30 Calculators
Classroom Performance System (CPS), Senteo, or Similar Classroom “Clicker” systems $3,000
SMART Board, Promethean, or similar IWB To present material digitally and dynamically $3,000
TOTAL COST $20,728.50

iPads Make Financial and Educational Sense

When we consider all costs associated with operating the traditional “digital” mathematics classroom, after the first year, your school and board will experience cost savings under the given assumptions above.

What About Me? I Still Use Chalk!

If a mathematics teacher is still currently writing a note up on the board or simply displaying a transparency on an overhead projector, you definitely will not experience a cost savings. However, I would argue that improved levels of engagement and success in your mathematics classroom does have a cost and it is well worth it in the long-run. Regardless of how educated, experienced, or entertaining the teacher is, when the math itself is static on a chalk board or overhead projector, it can be difficult to get students to learn to love the subject area and excel to their highest potential.

Currently Using a TIPS-Style, Three-Part Lesson?

If you are like many of the teachers currently switching to a TIPS4RM style lesson, where handouts on a daily basis are the “norm,” the cost savings of eliminating the photocopying required would enable an iPad classroom to be paid completely in just under four and a half years. Without even factoring in the other technologies and textbook savings which present themselves in an iPad classroom, this technology makes financial and educational sense to me; will it also make sense to your board?

Retail Price of iPads & Tablets Are Dropping!

Still not convinced that the cost of an iPad classroom can be justified? Don’t give up! With the cost of iPads decreasing and the number of tablet makers increasing, Apple will not be able to keep prices above $400 for long. Many predict that Apple will lose its hold on the majority of tablet consumers as Android continues to grow and other operating systems, such as Windows 8 improve.

Regardless of whether you see a cart full of iPads coming your way in the near future, I encourage you to take steps to prepare yourself and show that if funding becomes available, you would be a great candidate to lead the program. Feel free to contact me by leaving a comment if you have any questions, concerns, or need some advice with a proposal! Good luck!

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  • This is a little bit of an unfair comparison. You have everything but the kitchen sink in the “Traditional Classroom” and in the iPad classroom you have iPads and nothing else. Nary a worksheet, ever. I have been involved with my children’s public schools and I saw carts full of laptops that were not maintained and never used. Yes, today more is online and there is more support for using laptops or tablets, but still the teachers are so overworked and under-supported technologically that I fear that money spent on fancy tablets is going to be money that could have made much more of a difference somewhere else.

    I teach math at the college level and use Blackboard and WebAssign, but see no need to have anything fancier than a document camera in the classroom. I’m teaching in a room with only a chalkboard now and it’s not what I would prefer, but it’s doable. If that class is not successful, that’s my fault and not the technology’s fault.

    • Hi hdbooth!

      Really appreciate you taking the time to post your thoughts.

      You’ve raised a few good points here. It should be noted that we are comparing an iPad classroom to what I called the traditional “digital” classroom, which I know may sound a bit backwards. You’re definitely right that not every classroom has a SMART Board and a class set of clickers, but the comparison is simply to encourage those in the technology sector who are still purchasing more and more Interactive whiteboards to consider other alternatives.

      I completely agree that teachers are under-supported technologically and often times the money spent on technology can be wasted if teachers are not comfortable utilizing it. I know in most schools, mind included, we have SMART Board “rovers” sitting in storage rooms because of a lack of expertise in the area.

      I think it is great that you’re comfortable with simply a document camera. Myself, however, feel that I can do much greater things with an iPad and Apple TV when it comes to presenting the material. On the student end, they could go paper/pencil, but I find there have been way too many benefits with an iPad in their hands.

      Check out some of the other posts like this one to learn more.

    • Some teachers would love to be supported technologically in the way Mr. Pearce explains above, while others would complain that it’s more to learn. For the teachers who would take the time to learn how to make the technology improve their delivery or support, their students would benefit exponentially more than a teacher who continues to use old-fashioned ways that have always worked for them. Teachers need to change with the times and try to work with their students in ways that the students understand and appreciate. But your point is valid that teachers who are forced to use a cart of computers won’t do it when the boss stops watching, and those computers unfortunately will sit and stagnate. I personally love using technology in my classroom and I know my students appreciate all my efforts in this area!

      • Thanks for the comment and positive feedback!

        I’ve always believed that technology is only useful and worth the cost if you have teachers who are willing to spend the time experimenting and learning. Regardless of whether they have novice or expert experience levels, only when there is a desire to utilize technology will the cost be justified.

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