Friday, March 15, 2013

Why Every Kid Should Be Able to Do Math Without a Calculator

English: the calculator of SHARP (ELSIMATE EL-...
SHARP calculator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Michelle,

In a highly-advanced technological age where every child seems to have a smartphone complete with a powerful calculator in their pocket, it may seem silly to make sure that they still are able to do math without the assistance of a calculator.

However, there are plenty of reasons why children should know how to solve basic equations without a computer’s intervention.

Regardless of how ubiquitous calculators and calculating software seem to be, there are things that a child simply can’t learn from plugging numbers in and instantly receiving an answer.
Learning to Operate in the Real World

While it’s quite likely that your child will almost always have access to a calculator of some sort in his adult life, it’s still important that he have at least a basic understanding of how to work out simple mathematical equations.

Technology isn’t infallible, and there may come a time when he needs to come to a numerical conclusion and has no access to a calculator. When children rely on technology to do all of their work for them, they’re missing out on necessary life skills.

Learning Real Skills Versus Learning to Operate Software

A 2007 report by the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance to Congress shows that 16 of the best and most powerful reading and math learning software programs had no measurable effect on test scores.

Students learned how to operate the software to obtain the desired affects, but not to apply the underlying concepts in daily life. No matter how well your child learns to solve equations on his calculator, he will essentially be missing the most important part of the exercise: how the solution is found.

Kids can’t watch a calculator perform equations in real-time or observe the various steps in between. They simply enter a set of numbers, and another is returned to them. Manipulating a calculator with speed and accuracy doesn’t necessarily indicate that your child has the first idea of how to complete that same equation with a pencil and paper.

Obtaining Higher Education

Kids as young as those in elementary school are given calculators as a part of their curriculum, a practice that’s often continued all the way up to high school. What parents may not realize, however, is that many university math departments do not allow the use of a calculator.

When a high school honors student is struggling merely to pass his first math classes in college, the hit to his self-esteem alone could affect his performance in the realm of higher education.

Introductory collegiate mathematics classes generally ban calculator use, largely because in higher math the numbers are secondary to the abstract equations. For a science or mathematics-based major, the ability to understand the basic parts of an equation is essential.

A calculator is of absolutely no use beyond introductory calculus, nor will it help a physics student find the answers they’re looking for. Instilling basic, core competency in these areas from a younger age and actively using those skills throughout high school far better prepares a young student to explore an education beyond the walls of that high school.

In an educational environment that relies largely upon calculators in the classroom, figuring out a way to instill basic mathematical principles and an appreciation for arriving at a solution through figuring it out independently isn’t easy.

As long as calculator use is encouraged, and even required as part of a public curriculum, the responsibility to teach and reinforce basic equation-building and mathematical skills will fall upon the shoulders of parents.

When your child protests that calculators are everywhere and he’ll never need to know how to work out a problem manually, explaining all of the reasons why he should still acquire these skills may help to soothe his indignation.
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