Role of Calculators in Schools

For adults, math is used in many ways, from configuring sales tax and tips to figuring gas mileage and averages; but for children it sometimes seems as if the only time for math is for homework and tests. The initial purpose for schools in this department is for the students to see and understand the practical uses of it, however it is controversial that the use of teaching with calculators changes this idea.

In the short essay Ditch the Calculators, the author Diane Hunsaker insinuates that the overuse of calculators in math class defeats the ultimate goal of education: expanding the mind and increasing students abilities to function as contributing members of society. As society enters the twenty-first century it seems that teaching and learning has an entirely new perspective. It seems as though the new technologies that are introduced in school, computers and calculators, are not producing the same effects that learning without them once had.

As a college level student I feel that, from my own experience, I am an advanced math student because the rules and principles were drilled into my memory and not that of a calculator at a young age. Depending on one’s perspective, the use of calculators at the elementary school level is seen as either the solution to or cause of many of the problems affecting math education in this country. It has been known for a long time that early experience is able to shape the brain and behavior.

In the stages of learning at a young age, to fully grasp a concept, a child must understand the principles how and why in order to apply any significance or relation to anything. This particularly applies to such a subject as that of math. Diane Hunsaker expresses her view as well in the following quote: “Math is as much about knowing why the rules work as knowing what the rules are” (668). It seems that Hunsaker is saying that before rules can be applied, there must be a foundation for them. This concept for math, and in general, trains the mind by exercising thinking skills.

It is apparent that she agrees by examining her direct statement, “Math trains the mind. ” By this she also goes on to say, that by the ability to exercise these particular thinking skills that students are learning to think logically and rationally. I must say, that having the ability to think logically and rationionally in controlled situations has allowed me to progress outside the classroom. I truly feel that young students need this knowledge in order to grow and mature and be proficient in society.

As children progress through school, it is evident that their will be an advancement to the concepts of mathematics; the use of a calculator at higher levels of education seems to get less criticism due to its applied advantages. In higher levels of learning, calculators do allow students to spend less time on tedious calculations by simplifying the task to a push of a few buttons, however this does not, by any means, help the student to determine the best method for problem solving.

All a calculator seems to do at this point of education is allow the student to quickly apply the knowledge they previously have, or it tends to give a false sense of confidence about their ability. Having previously taken a psychology class, I learned that naturally once a cognitive behavior is learned it is nearly impossible to understand let alone to change without repetitious behavioral therapy. Appling this knowledge to this particular subject, I feel that students who failed to learn the knowledge presented early in grade school, will continue to fail at higher levels even with the help of a calculator.

Hunsaker tends to agree in the following statement, ” A student who has grown up with a calculator will struggle with both strategies and computations” (668). As higher math levels due require a calculator, it is not surprising that when a problem does exist, it tends to prevail at every level. Hunsaker as a tutor mentions that she was not the least bit surprised to find out that those struggling with the concept in middle and high school levels are allow to use a calculator as an unlimited access tool (667).

As a student that is nearly just beginning college, I must say that the concepts that I learned in grade school have helped me intensely. To think that if I had struggled with the underlying foundations of mathematics and had just been handed a calculator, I would not be the student I am today. I strongly feel that Diane Hunsaker makes an important argument against the overuse of calculators. Having the ability to process information and become proficient with it purpose is definitely an essential to functioning in society. If society fails to express this importance, then what will the future hold?


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