Saturday, February 22, 2014

Calculators- The Crutch in the Classroom

As technology advances, students cling to the resources they can use in the classroom.  In high school, I rarely used a computer and filled countless notebooks for my classes.  Nowadays, students use laptops, iPads, and Chrome books for school related activities.  This week’s discussion was primarily focused on the use of graphing calculators in math classes.  Should students be allowed to use their graphing calculators whenever they desire or restrict their usage to ensure quality education?
            In the first article, “Why the graphing calculator still matters in an iPad world?” was written in 2011 and discussed the use of graphing calculators compared to iPads.  Lucas Allen provides strong evidence that graphing calculators are better for students and teachers.  The main producers of graphing calculators, Texas Instruments, provide workshops for teachers so they know how to use them.  Also, graphing calculators are half the cost of iPads.  The apps may be cheap but you still have to pay for the device and you can save more money with the graphing calculator.  For testing, especially for the ACT and SAT, graphing calculators will be preferred because you can’t browse in a window like the iPad.  However, standardized testing has their own restrictions on what types of graphing calculators they allow. 
            The second article, “Graphing calculators face new competition”, discusses other options instead of the graphing calculator.  Graphing calculators can be outdated and a tad expensive.  Now, teachers are letting students pull out their smartphones and use apps instead of the calculator.  This requires companies to come up with more effective calculators to compete with other technology.  However, allowing students to use their phones in a classroom creates problems for supervision.
            The last article, “Go Ahead, Mess with Texas Instruments”, argues that the graphing calculator has more benefits for education than an iPad.  It provides strong points for the graphing calculator and how it helps students learn about graphing and programming.  However, graphing calculators are abused by some students.  The students who are technologically savvy use their calculators to play games.  Most technology has the flaw of not being used for the purpose it was created for.  iPads can be used in multiple different classes where a graphing calculator is restricted to math.  iPads are worth the cost because they are versatile so companies need to understand the consumer’s needs.
            A large part of the discussion was how calculators are becoming a crutch for students in the classroom.  Students no longer have the basic arithmetic skills that they once possessed.  With the simple ease of grabbing a calculator and inputting the numbers, they lose the knowledge adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.  This past weekend, I observed this problem first hand.  While helping my younger brother with his Algebra homework, he used his calculator for basic arithmetic.  I found the answer faster mentally than he did using technology.  Granted, some students excel with technology and like using it.  However, all students should master basic arithmetic without the use of a calculator.  Calculators damage the math skills that a student absorbs throughout the school years.  Calculators are becoming the crutch students use to get by without have a solid understanding in their education.  Teachers need to focus students more on their own skills and using calculators as an aid instead of allowing calculators to do the work for the students. 

by Meghan Pommer