While eating lunch one day last week, some sixth grade teachers were discussing how their students struggled with subtraction that required borrowing. After the topic circled the table a couple of times, the conclusion was made that students are being allowed to depend on calculators too much.
Many state tests and curriculums now allow students to use calculators for their math calculations. When I was teaching eighth grade pre-algebra, I taught my students how to use a scientific and graphing calculator. However, they could not use them on every day work or on the state test. Now things have changed.
I think that certain applications may be better with calculator use. However, I also feel that students should not use the calculators for everyday math such as addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. Using a calculator for these skills often only weakens the child’s abilities. Applications such as finding a square root may be more suitable for calculator use.
There is a very fine line with this issue. Technology is the thing of today. Almost every store has a computerized adding machine or cash register that gives details of the change to be given back. So children do need to learn to use the machines. However, things happen. The power goes out or the machines break down. Children also need to be taught how to recognize when an answer given by a computer or calculator is unreasonable. In some cases, persons feel that these machines can never be wrong and they would never second-guess the answer that it gave. Children should not be taught to depend on machines to this extent.
I think that teaching children and allowing children to use a calculator is okay. I think that it would be most appropriate to have a calculator day assigned. For example, let the students use their calculator every Friday or every Monday. On the other days, they are required to use their head. This way both manual and computerized calculations are being made.