by Anne-Evan Williams, LGL Director of Educational Development
Since the invention of the calculator forty years ago, educators have debated the value of such tools in the classroom. Are they valuable aids or are they just crutches for students with poor math abilities? More and more teachers are finding that calculators are indispensable in classroom math instruction.
The caveat, of course, is ensuring that your students are comfortable manipulating numbers before they begin using the calculators. Once students are comfortable with numeric operations, the calculators can allow them to focus their time and energy on more complex tasks like problem solving.
In a recent article celebrating the birthday of the calculator, Bethlehem (NJ) Area School District Supervisor of Mathematics Julie Victory says, "Calculators actually empower a student. It allows us to ask a whole different set of questions. Rather than spending hours manipulating numbers at a high school level, we can actually look at things like functions."
The role of the calculator as a tool, and not as a crutch, is a strategic one. Like any other classroom tool, the calculator has its benefits, but it can be misused as well. Teachers must know the abilities of their students and choose carefully when to introduce the calculator in classroom instruction. Further, as calculators become more complex, teachers must know the capabilities of the tool as well. And as with any tool, previewing is crucial.
Tags: calculators in the classroom, classroom instruction, math instruction, math calculators