Some Misconceptions about the use of Calculators

The need to do long paper and pencil computation is now losing importance every day, while the need to mentally compute and estimate is growing in importance. This calls for optimal use of calculators and computers. Some people oppose the use of

calculators.

This is largely based on misinformation. Myths and fears about students not learning because of using calculators persist.

The following are prevalent myths

about calculator use.

If kids use calculators, they won’t learn the ‘basics’

Every advocate of calculator use must make it clear to parents that basic fact mastery and flexible computation skills, including mental computation, remain important goals of the curriculum.

The availability of calculators has no negative effect on traditional skills. The ability to perform tedious computation by hand does not involve thinking or reasoning or solving problems. Society wants people who can think and solve novel problems and know when it is appropriate to use technology and how to use it effectively.

Calculators make students lazy

Almost no mathematical thinking is involved in doing routine computations by hand.

People who use calculators when solving problems are therefore using their intellect in more important ways – reasoning, conjecturing, testing ideas, and solving problems.

When used appropriately, calculators enhance learning; they do not get in the way of learning.

Students should learn the “real way” before using calculators.

Following rules for a pencil – and – paper computation does little to help students understand the ideas behind them. The invert – and – multiply method for the division of fractions is a typical example; not even all elementary teachers can explain why this method makes sense.

Yet they all had extensive practice with that technique. The same

is true of many other computational procedures.

Students will become overly dependent on calculators Calculators are kept from students like the biblical forbidden fruit.

That is why when they are finally allowed to use them students often use them inappropriately for the simplest of tasks. Mastery of basic facts, mental computation, and some attention to by–hand techniques continue to be essential requirements for all students. In lessons where these skills are the objective, the calculator should simply be kept off.

When students learn these essential non calculator skills, they rarely use the calculator

inappropriately.

The availability of the calculator at all times makes students learn when and how to use it wisely.

i. Calculators do not harm learners’ knowledge and use of basic math facts and algorithms. Rather the proper use can improve the average student’s basic computation skills and problem-solving skills. From the constructivist perspective, the use of calculators allows the student to focus on meaning, solve problems and consider increasingly complex tasks.

ii. Calculators also help to improve a student’s self-concept in mathematics and lessen mathematics anxiety.

Calculators should therefore be used as an everyday part of the mathematics curriculum; as instructional tools and as computational tools.

The teacher should encourage students to use the calculator to assist them in developing their thinking abilities. Students should learn the appropriate time.