Secondary Math and Calculator Use

Discussion in 'General Education' started by orangetea, Aug 13, 2013.

  1. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Aug 13, 2013

    If you teach Secondary Math, how much do you allow calculator use? I hate, hate, hate it when students use calculators as a crutch! I think it's very important for students to be able to do simple computations without using a calculator. Even if a student is in Algebra 2, I still think it's important to be remember long division and adding fractions with different denominators--even though those are skills they learned a long time ago.

    For some tests, I have a calculator section and a no calculator section for problems that require a calculator. What do you think about calculator use in Secondary Math?
     
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  3. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    As a student, the only class in which I used a calculator to any memorable extent was pre-calc/trig.
     
  4. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    I hate calculators for simple calculations, as well. However, some students struggle so much that it's beneficial to let them use a calculator for the easy stuff if that means they will be able to attempt the higher stuff and therefore build their math stamina/self-esteem. It's simply not worth it for a child to shut down while doing the FOIL method if they can't multiply negative numbers. I'd rather them use the calculator and have a shot at performing FOIL, rather than calling it quits at the beginning stages.

    However, I have been told that the Common Core assessments for math have a virtual calculator that will "pop up" when they are allowed to use it and "disappear" when they aren't. This has inspired me to support students in mental math strategies more than in previous years.
     
  5. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    BumbleB- That's a good point...definitely if a student cannot do simple multiplication, it's important to make accommodations so they can get to the higher level material. I'm sure I'll have to allow this next year. But if I do, I'm going to do my best to push away from it by doing review in class and supplementing homework with practice problems.

    I get annoyed when I see kids in honors classes who are always allowed to use calculators though! Most of these kids are perfectly capable of doing most of the test without the calculators, but doing need to do multiplication or division in their head. If they choose to continue with math in college, this will definitely hurt them because I don't think most college math classes allow calculators. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but none of my calc classes allowed calculators at all.) I was allowed to use calculators most of the time in high school until my senior year calc class, and it was such a shock and a huge challenge until I got used to it --but definitely helpful to get no calculator experience before college. One of my friends was from a country where they were always allowed to use calculators and she struggled with the computations.
     
  6. JoanPD

    JoanPD Rookie

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    In school I was allowed to use calculators since 7th grade, and have been able to use graphing calculators in all high school and college math and science classes, as such I have had to spend time reteaching myself how to do some basic math, and wish I had some teachers that didn't depend so much on calculator use in the past.
     
  7. bison

    bison Habitué

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    I would have been pro-calculator if I hadn't taken a math course for elementary teachers that completely disallowed them. I got better at math in that course than I have in any other in my lifetime, despite a pretty poor professor and very little new content that I hadn't taken before. A lot of kids just aren't developing the skills to do well in math and I personally think it has at least a little to do with poor skills in basic arithmetic. When I worked in high schools I found that most were either making careless errors or just didn't have the math facts memorized well enough. It's not enough to have to practice them for a year or two in elementary and then use a calculator for the rest of their schooling. Unless it's higher level math that will be ridiculous without a calculator or something, I'm on the no-calculator boat. I know the kids don't like it though.
     
  8. ajr

    ajr Rookie

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    I don't see how this is going to be resolved anytime soon; it's the perennial argument.

    No matter which you pick, you're going to help one group of students and harm another. I'd go looking for which group is larger; if it turns out that more students are helped than harmed by banning calculators, then do that. Have a study in hand to refer to though, not just anecdote.

    Some students will use a calculator for everything and hinder their learning, other students will use it as an aid for learning. Pick the group you want to foster and go with it.

    Also, be willing to admit that your decision hurts some. Don't pretend that choosing one or the other is best for everyone, because it's not.


    An aside:

    I think many replies in this thread are symptomatic of a disconnect between math everywhere else and K-12. The times tables and long division are important because they're repeatedly tested in school, not because they are important for some intrinsic reason.

    Personally, I don't know my times tables and never have. I'm a junior math major in college, and it doesn't hurt me one bit now that everyone's stopped asking. I use my calculator constantly when it's appropriate. Nobody checks what kind it is or what functions it has. If some idiot thinks math is calculating tips at a restaurant, that's not going to hurt my feelings. Similarly, if someone goes through Calc I and uses a TI-89 to pass without learning anything, then good luck next semester in Calc II. It's their money. They can fail if they want, for any reason they want.

    Though in highschool, it's more prudent to set policy based on what's best for most, rather than just letting people get stuck and fail.
     
  9. bison

    bison Habitué

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    I feel like I use basic multiplication/division and therefore my multiplication tables every single day :dizzy:... Personally, I would find pulling out a calculator over and over inconvenient and a little embarrassing. I don't even always have my phone on me.
     
  10. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Aug 13, 2013

    This is what I was going to say! I constantly use math, and I hate having to pull out my phone to do it. I think that knowing times tables is a very important life skill to have, even for people who don't do a lot of higher level math in their day to day lives. Calculating tips, grocery shopping....It would be pretty sad to have to pull out a calculator every single time you want to figure out how much money you're saving on a box of Cheerios.
     
  11. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    As to the original question, I think that you should let your state tests guide you. I hate having to give that answer, but it's the most practical. In my state, our proficiency tests don't allow calculators. Students need to be able to do basic math without them. Classes where constant calculator use is allowed for the basics are not super beneficial to students for this reason. Students end up performing poorly on their proficiencies (and thus risk not graduating from high school) because they're making simple calculation errors.
     
  12. Barbd

    Barbd Rookie

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    Aug 14, 2013

    I am actually of two minds over this.

    On the one hand, I feel students that have used a calculator for most/all of middle school (which most allow now) they have been done a disservice and need certain skills to do the math mentally or by hand.

    I will preface my next part with I *do* teach up to 70% of students in SpEd or with some sort of plan.

    However, I had the "crutch" philosophy straight up until teaching here. I tried to discourage the use except for the higher maths and then only when necessary.

    After spending a good portion of my summer with my math PD team (including a math specialist, another math teacher and a retired math teacher) the states are not looking at them as a crutch, but as a tool. The students need to learn how use them effectively and need practice on them before standardized tests (which most states allow in secondary schools).

    Now, I don't have a lot of students than are able to perform what I feel are grade level mental/hand calculations. However, we *are* working on that.

    BUT my students also are expected to use a graphing calculator in many aspects of their curriculum and tests.

    Basically, it's a fine line for any secondary teacher. Do they *need* them for the calculations? If so, you pretty much can't stop them from using them for all calculations, but you can try to discourage the use.

    I still try to discourage the use, but I do not forbid the use. I feel it ultimately depends on your expectations, the lesson of the day, and the students' abilities.
     

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