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Mathematics November 2012 Volume 1, Issue 1 Calculators— Yes or No? Zalman Usiskin, Editor Inside this Issue 1 2 2 2 3 Calculators—Yes or No? Throw Away The Pencils Who Needs Calculators Anyway? What Are Other People Saying About Calculator Use? Research Says… Ever since an affordable, hand-held calculator became available in the early 1980s there has been controversy about its use in the classroom. In the beginning, it was not much of an issue since calculators were so expensive, but today a student can obtain one for a mere dollar at the local discount store. “How important are speed and accuracy with paper-and-pencil when a calculator is usually faster and more accurate?” “What becomes obsolete because of the existence of calculators?” Should Have—Shouldn’t Have Today, most high-school students are required to have a graphing calculator. Some classrooms even have calculators for the class to use. Furthermore, a calculator is required on many college-entrance exams. But the same does not hold true for students in elementary school. The jury is still out in regards to whether these students should be allowed to use a calculator. Questions Arise Deby Shipman ED 498 Instructional Technology Monday Night Class MUW, Columbus, MS 39701 Focus The question of whether calculator use should or shouldn’t be allowed raises many questions. “What new understandings, if any, can arise from calculator use, and what understandings, if any, may be lost?” These questions and more will be examined in this newsletter. We will also discuss many other issues concerning the calculator and its use in today’s classrooms. References: Mathematics Education Dialogues May/June 1999, Vol. 2, Issue 3 (Continued on page 3) Throw Away The Pencils taught to use mental math for one- and two-digit calculations. For all other calculations, the students should be by Anthony Ralston In this age of technological advancement, do students really need to learn to do mathematic equations using pencil and paper? “I propose that the elementary school mathematics curriculum should not attempt to achieve any level of proficiency whatever in pencil-and-paper arithmetic.” Why do I say this? Even though American students always make a poor showing at international competitions the fact remains that it is not because they have not been taught the math, they have just taught incorrectly. I purpose that students from kindergarten all the way up through high-school should be taught the correct procedures for using a calculator. When students are taught the correct way to use a calculator they can develop a much higher level of number sense and symbol sense. It is the lack of technique that stands in the way of students becoming proficient in calculator use, thereby doing away with pencil-and-paper mathematics. The only thing standing in the way of this educational upheaval is teacher resistance. When educators decide to make the change, and keep up with today’s current technology, there will be a noticeable difference in mathematics test scores. We must advance to a curriculum that is “calculator-andmental-arithmetic-based.” What Are Your Thoughts? Send us your questions and feedback. Email [email protected] Who Needs Calculators Anyway? by Kim Mackey Calculators Only Produce Answers Students in K-6 do not need to use a calculator. This is the age when the student needs to be focusing on the experience of writing expressions, not merely finding the solution. They do not need to be turned into mindless, “blackbox” button pushing zombies who never learn how to solve a “two-step problem.” Damage Done by Calculator Use Mathematic expressions lose meaning. Number manipulation that written equation solving provides. Loss of writing an expression that others will understand. Movement from “solving simple problems” to just getting to the answer. Students lose that ability to write and equation. The Solution Calculators and computers have a place in mathematics and the mathematics What Are Other People Saying About Calculator Use? by Cynthia Ballheim, For the Editorial Panel Our Editorial Panel fished for answers to the question of when or even SHOULD calculators be used in the mathematics classroom. Teachers from all over the country responded. Out of 180 responses to the question of when a calculator should be allowed in a classroom, 69 respondents said they should be allowed after kindergarten. Read on to see what other about the issue of Calculators In The Classroom. classroom. But that place is not simply to teach the student that the answer is always the ultimate goal. We should not promote the use of calculator technology simply to stay “on the cutting edge of the mathematics reform movement.” What needs to be done is to help teachers and instructors understand that calculator use should not be a substitute for the student using their own minds to actively solve a problem. “There needs to be a balance between mental, paper, and calculator work.” Cyndy Montes Grad 8 Teacher, New Jersey What Other People Are Saying…(cont. from page 2) “Calculators are tools that students need to know how to use.” Janice James Grades 1-3 Teacher, Kentucky “It is important that children develop math sense and understand the reasonableness of an answer.” June Lange Prewitt Kindergarten Teacher, Missouri “A waste of my time. NCTM should concentrate on promoting qualified math teachers in all classrooms and less on this nonsense.” David Detje, FSC Grade 7 Teacher, New York “To educate math students without calculators and computers is to deprive them of a rich experience in References (continued from page 1) Usiskin, Z., Groping and hoping for a consensus on calculator use. (Cover Page). Ralston, A., Let’s abolish pencil-andpaper arithmetic. p. 2. Mackey, K., Do we need calculators?. p. 3. Ballheim, C., How our readers feel about calculators. p. 4-5. Dessart, D.J., DeRidder, C.M., & Ellington, A.J. The research backs calculators. p. 6 complex problem solving. However, two things must be remembered. First, basic skills such as mental calculations and pencil-and-paper calculations must be developed and maintained. Second, teachers must receive training so they become calculator literate before calculators are used in the classroom.” Holt Zaugg Grades 7-12 Teacher, Alberta, Canada “Calculators allow for the exploration of number patterns and use of realworld data. Calculators are part of everyday life. We cheat students if they are not allowed to use them.” Lucy Hahn Grade 2 Teacher, Idaho Research Says… by D.J. Dessart, C.M. DeRidder, & A.J. Ellington The technological importance of the calculator cannot be lauded enough. “Schools have the duty to provide instruction for the appropriate and effective use of [them].” Research has proven that the calculator should play an everyday part in the development of math concepts and computations skills. 1992 Report by Hembree and Dessart In a research project that consisted of eighty-eight different studies, Ray Hembree and Donald J. Dessart found that when compared to students who were not allowed to use calculators those who were allowed did not suffer from any lack of computational nor conceptual skills. The study further showed that those students who were allowed to use a calculator had a much Mathematics Focus 3 better attitude towards mathematics. These students also had a greater respect for themselves for being successful at math. An Asset, Not A Hindrance In a study conducted from 1984-1995, and published in 1997 by Brian A. Smith, the conclusion was that students who used a calculator “had a positive effect on increasing conceptual knowledge.” It was not only in highschool or college level, but though out all grade levels that this effect was perceived. Smith concluded that the use of a calculator “did not hinder the development of pencil-and-paper skill.” In the project Calculators in Primary Mathematics (funded by the Australian Research Council and the University of Melbourne) is was found that students who used calculators showed “no detrimental effects.” What Is The School’s Role? Curricular renovations and teacher education are going to play an important role in the integration of calculators into all grade levels. It is important, in this age of technological advancement, that students have the ability to use every and all tools available to enhance their educational experience. The use of the calculator is one tool that, when put in the right hands for instruction and made available for to students, will make a positive change in our mathematical educational system. It is the obligation of the school to allow students the use of this powerful tool as an essential part of mathematics education. 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