Are You Too Dependent On Your Calculator?

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If you saw a shirt on sale at the mall for 25 percent off, would you be able to figure out in your head how much it costs? Have we become too dependent on whipping out our cell phones and using the calculator function to know how much tip we should leave at a restaurant?

To take our discussion one step further, we sought out Dr. Robert Horton, a professor of secondary math education at Clemson University, to tell us what's the deal with using calculators.

"I believe teens can, and should, begin using calculators at very young ages," Dr. Horton says. "We live in a technological era and they should have access to the technology."

Phew, calculators haven't destroyed us, but there are, of course, some strings attached to that statement.

"What is also important, however, is for students to learn when calculators are not appropriate," he continues. "Too often students are given calculators, but are not taught when to use them and when not to use them. Having seen high school students use a calculator to multiply six and one, I am only too aware that many students have not developed the number sense they need to thrive in school and society."
Dr. Horton stresses that while using calculators in the classroom can be beneficial, it's incredibly important for teachers to still stimulate students' mental ability to do math and develop number reasoning, and not simply replace those skills with technology.

"If the use of the calculator is not accompanied by thoughtful instruction, certainly it is possible for students to become overly dependent on them...The biggest problem with overreliance on calculators occurs when students use calculators for performing operations they should do mentally," Dr. Horton explains.

This school year, don't be shy about getting your geek on by using a calculator -- when the right math problem calls for it. Here are more benefits of punching those digits.

"[Calculators] can stimulate interest," Dr. Horton states. "They allow us to use real data instead of contrived problems. They allow us to solve many problems that simply can't be solved without them. For some children, calculators can also be used to overcome gaps; should we deny access to algebra and other mathematics to someone who has difficulty with fractions?"

Need help with math? Click here for homework help.

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