The new mathematics curriculum expects elementary school students to be using calculators.Whether calculators should be used in elementary math teaching is a topic of debate. Some argue that a calculator can help children concentrate on understanding the mathematical concepts rather than spending time on tedious calculations. In contrast, others argue that calculators prevent children from learning the basic fundamentals of math, stops students from discovering and understanding mathematical concepts. Simply, calculators drive children away from the basic understanding of training the mind into logical reasoning. First, why do we learn math? Here are a few reasons below:
1. To understand numbers and patterns
2. To know when and how to use math tools.
3. To make fast and accurate estimations.
4. To grow and maintain mental power.
5. To think logically and clearly when solving problems.
6. To operate systems using profound knowledge.
7. To check the reasonableness of answers.
8. To feel comfortable in a technological world.
Calculator usage should vary with age
Depending on the teacher’s approach, calculators might be perceived by parents as either good or bad. Calculator use should be implemented strategically in ways that support the development of problem-solving skills. Calculators are commonly used intoday’s society, so students should be familiar with it by the time they finish school. Basic arithmetic is a useful basis for understanding the operations with polynomials in algebra. It should be recommended that young children avoid or restrict the use of calculators until they know their basic facts and can add, subtract, multiply, and divide even large numbers with pencil & paper. This skill can buildnumber sense and promote mental calculations.
Activities using Calculators in Elementary Math
Despite the arguments made above, it is still not a bad idea to introduce a child to calculators at a young age. It’s a powerful tool to let children explore and observe. However it is important to note, teachers still need to explain concepts, justify the rules of math whilst using a calculator to do activities.Here are a few interesting activities withcalculators to try on students:
1. For Kindergartners and first graders:adding 1 repeatedly (as simple as doing expressions such as 1+1 and hitting the = sign) or subtracting 1 repeatedly. Or, investigating what happens to a number when you add zero to it. This teaches students important skills like number sense, estimation and problem solving.
2. Calculator Pattern Puzzle: A fun activity for first to third grade children. It’s adding or subtracting the same number repeatedly using a calculator. Children will observe patterns that emerge when they start exploring numbers.
3. Introducing Pi: have students measure the circumference and the diameter of several circular objects, and calculate their ratio with a calculator (which saves time and can help keep the focus on the concept).