


08132013, 09:39 AM


Connoisseur


Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 1,569
MA
High School Math Teacher


Secondary Math and Calculator Use
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 denominatorseven 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?

08132013, 05:51 PM


Habitué


Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 892
Maine
High School Life Science


As a student, the only class in which I used a calculator to any memorable extent was precalc/trig.

08132013, 06:32 PM


Habitué


Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 909


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/selfesteem. 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.

08132013, 06:48 PM


Connoisseur


Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 1,569
MA
High School Math Teacher


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.

08132013, 08:13 PM

Rookie


Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 12
CT
College student


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.

08132013, 08:58 PM


Habitué


Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 894


I would have been procalculator 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 nocalculator boat. I know the kids don't like it though.

08132013, 09:52 PM

Novice


Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 62


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 K12. 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 TI89 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.

08132013, 10:03 PM


Habitué


Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 894


Quote:
Originally Posted by ajr
I think many replies in this thread are symptomatic of a disconnect between math everywhere else and K12. 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 TI89 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.

I feel like I use basic multiplication/division and therefore my multiplication tables every single day ... 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.

08132013, 10:24 PM


Multitudinous


Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 11,536


Quote:
Originally Posted by bison
I feel like I use basic multiplication/division and therefore my multiplication tables every single day ... 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.

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.

08132013, 10:25 PM


Multitudinous


Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 11,536


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.

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