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Calculators in the Classroom

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

  1. John Gabriel
    Reply 02/05/09

    My previous post should read: Calculators in addition to high-profile tests and lack of discipline in schools have all contributed to an education system that is broken beyond repair.

  2. John gabriel
    Reply 02/05/09

    Calculators are one of the main reasons Americas students have been dumbed down. On the bright side, Texas Instruments has made billions of dollars on the misfortune of school kids. What an outright shame. It is difficult for me to believe that any teacher who thinks calculators have a place in school should even be in the teaching profession. Calculators in addition to high-profile tests and lack of schools have all contributed to an education system that is broken beyond repair.

  3. Ronald Scheer
    Reply 12/22/07

    In our classes we stimulate our students to use as much tools like calculators as possible. That is what they will do after graduation in ‘the real’ world as well.

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