Using calculators

Posted in Uncategorized by icttalk on March 23, 2018

The debate surfaced again on Breakfast TV this morning and seems not to have developed in 40 years. As only something of a simplification, the moment you open your mouth you are either a Luddite or someone who cannot countenance ever doing a calculation mentally again. There seems to be an inability to accept that there are people who see this technology as neither vital to modern life nor something that will dumb down mathematics. There really are people who when carrying one will use it and when not will calculate using other means.

Enough of the perceived extremes. In my diagram below I set out three types of calculation. We will usually work mentally first and, failing that, move to pencil and paper and then on to a calculator.

Notice the overlaps where a user is not sure which route to go. An ambition must be to move these to the right where possible.

The calculator also reinforces the need for other mathematical skills such as estimation and approximation. Without these the calculator does not guarantee accuracy. They are essential checking tools.

In the past I’ve used calculators as a teaching tool. They can be used to learn multiplication facts by heart (yes, really) and things like multiplication and division by powers of 10. The calculator is not there to do the calculation but to help the learner to a state where s(he) does not need it. It’s been a strategy that I’ve found it very hard to get across to the more traditionalist members of the community.


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