## Blessings of a calculator, maybe?

Discussions concerned with knowledge of measurement, properties, and relations quantities, theoretical or applied.

### Blessings of a calculator, maybe?

http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/goldstein_ ... school.pdf

After a friend told me her children were using calculators in elementary school, I found the above site with pros and cons of this new practice. Well, not too new. Iknew it was happening but hadn't delved into it much. I thought it would be in the later grades. The article is very well written but I have a question or two. If anyone has had children in schools where calculators were allowed, perhaps you can comment.

The one thing that really stopped me was the recommendation that calculators be allowed from K through the entire system. Yet, elsewhere, there was an occasional comment (not stressed very much in my opinion) that students should first know the basic concepts of math - add, subtract, multiply and divide I suppose.

If calculators are to be allowed from kindergarten onward, when were the basics taught? I think I can guess when they should be taught but I want to know what is really happening.

Then, of course, if your children had this experience, how well did it work in developing their concepts of math? Not just the basic add, subtract, multiply and divide but ability to solve problems, ability to do estimations and understand whether right or wrong.

From the perspective of parents, teachers and professionals who need math in their daily work lives, is introducing calculators so early helping?

One actual experience I have had and I'll leave it to you. A teacher in our school asked me to come in and help with a problem. She had a student adding a column of money amounts on the computer. Technically, digit by digit, the sum was correct but the computer program kept calling it wrong. I took one look. The student was doing what all of us do - omitting the decimal points. You and I know to add that when we are finished and are recording the answer. The student did not see the problem. I told him to put in his decimal points. His teacher said "Oh, that isn't necessary". I said "try it". He did and the answer was declared correct.

A concept had been neglected here. That is the kind of thing I am wondering about. With calculators, are the students also getting the deeper concepts? And, as the article seems to say, do calculators actually help them develop advanced math concepts? Goodness knows, something has to help as too many students thoroughly hate math. If calculators are an enlightenment that improves this attitude, I'm all for it.

vivian maxine
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### Re: Blessings of a calculator, maybe?

Hi Viv,

I'm of the mind that the basics should be taught first, including long division..yikes! Then, after the basics are down pat, calculators can be used to short-cut the tediousness of doing the more complex problems.

Regards,

Dave :^)

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### Re: Blessings of a calculator, maybe?

Dave_Oblad » April 29th, 2016, 4:42 pm wrote:Hi Viv,

I'm of the mind that the basics should be taught first, including long division..yikes! Then, after the basics are down pat, calculators can be used to short-cut the tediousness of doing the more complex problems.

Regards,

Dave :^)

Like thought problems? Or story problems, as some call them? I know that turning to a calculator slowed down my basic arithmetic skills - ones I used to do mentally with no need of pencil/paper. "Use it or lose it?"
vivian maxine
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### Re: Blessings of a calculator, maybe?

Calculators are so common it must be a problem to limit their access to young children.

I have often wondered if teaching children to use an abacus would help the more visual learners to learn the basics.
bangstrom
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### Re: Blessings of a calculator, maybe?

bangstrom » April 30th, 2016, 1:42 pm wrote:Calculators are so common it must be a problem to limit their access to young children.

I have often wondered if teaching children to use an abacus would help the more visual learners to learn the basics.

There is an adaptation of the abacus being used in some primary grades. Actually sticks of various sizes. Not the same, to my mind. I don't know how they get the idea of the base tens in there but I've never examined them.

I still think they need to show understanding of the math concepts first. Let's hope that is happening.
vivian maxine
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### Re: Blessings of a calculator, maybe?

This is a hot topic in college right now. I took pre-calculus years ago and never had a graphing calculator then in college I took it again with a professor who let us use computer programs and wolframalpha (even had us pay for a subscription) then my calculus and calculus 2 teacher didn't allow any tech.

The first teacher was a strong advocate for using technology to make our lives easier and go beyond spending the time to learn how to do it, while the other teacher was anti technology and wants us to know and take the time to do it the hard way.

I'm not sure what to think about it. It almost doesn't even make a difference because you will always have the students that want to learn and the ones that want to "cheat". Calculators, especially ones like wolframalpha (with a subscription) can actually help you understand better but the desire to understand needs to come from the student.

An older argument is that people should learn how computers work before allowed to use them? Most people have no concept of a simple directory tree structure which is one of the most important parts of using a computer and navigating the file system. Microsoft and Apple just cover everything with this horrendous GUI and no one knows how to work a computer but everyone has one. The comparison is everyone knowing how to punch numbers into a calculator or google and no one knowing how to do the actual math or retain the actual knowledge that google offers.

Humanity is a collaboration effort. Without the few that know how things work, then the whole system falls apart. It's the minority that knows how to perform the mathematics, that knows how to build the computer chips, or program the software that allows the majority to be fortunate to have all the technology that we have.

Too bad the fools out there in the world don't understand this collaboration and only care about greed money capitalism selfish destruction of our planet.

zetreque
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### Re: Blessings of a calculator, maybe?

I liked your comment zet but your last paragraph may be a bit strong for this thread :).

So I recall hearing a Ted talk about the phone being an extension of self. For the most part the modern techie is never without their smart phone, and thus never without a calculator. I can foresee that within 10-15 years, this technology will be implanted into our visual cortex and we may never have to use our brains for calculation again. Thus maybe allowing calculators is the better way to prepare for the future?

SciameriKen
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### Re: Blessings of a calculator, maybe?

Good points, Zetreque. As one who understands how to turn on a computer each morning, turn it off each evening and nothing beyond that, I have to add that not understanding how it works is a big handicap. Also an expensive handicap since those who know get my money to fix simple things.

Now, tie that to the person who does not know how to balance a check book and (as one young lady said to me) "I trust the bank". Or, far worse and, hopefully, not as common: the person who cannot do the very basics - who never understood that multiplication is a fast way of adding and division a fast way of subtracting. He therefore saw no need to learn that "complicated stuff". How long will it take a salesman to take him for a ride down a slippery slope?

As you said, those who want to learn it will "by hook or by crook". I agree. What about those who don't want to learn it until it is too late? Remember, we are talking about the basics. Do calculators belong in primary school, especially in kindergarten through, say, grade 4?

In my humble opinion, comprehension of "why it works" comes first. If they get that in the first few grades, then calculators become a welcome tool. It isn't to make work harder. It's to be sure the students know why those calculators work - and why they sometimes do not work rightly.

I'm afraid I cannot accept the notion of letting those who want to learn figure it out on their own and letting the rest slide by. In your adult life, that's fine. You who understand computers have jobs because we who do not understand them "trust the computer man" - not always a good idea. But, before you understood calculus and computers, you understood the basic skills. You know why your calculator is right or wrong. Do you regret that? Isn't it the fundamental back bone of what you can do today? I have no idea what calculus is all about but I can balance my check book. It is sad how many cannot and "just trust the bank".

That's my opinion but I'd still like to hear from a parent or two whose children started out with calculators in primary school. Did the concept of how and why come along? Are the concepts being taught at the same time?

Enough from me. Just as an aside, there is a great calculator inside the cranium. Did you ever have the fun of doing math mentally? I did. Then I got a calculator. My brain seems to have gone to sleep. Gotten lazy anyway.
vivian maxine
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