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At What Age Should We Allow Children To Utilize Calculators To Solve Math Problems?
We are taught to solve mathematical problems in many different ways. Pencil and paper methods are the most popular way to teach children to solve math problems. Students are also encouraged to learn how to use mental math to quickly solve math problems without using paper or pencil. Finally, students are encouraged to use the calculator to solve the majority of their calculation problems. The calculator is the method that has generated a lot of discussion. This question is always asked: At what age should we use this tool to teach our children to solve mathematical problems?
Some people think the calculator allows kids to focus more on math understanding and concepts instead of spending time teaching math skills. This machine can help children perform complex mathematical operations. The teacher can spend more time teaching math concepts, so more math can be taught each class period. Teachers are always under pressure to teach a certain number of concepts each lesson period, and if students have to spend a lot of time performing simple calculations, how can they teach new concepts?
Also, some students get upset because they don’t have time to solve their math problems. This is partly because they don’t have a good understanding of mathematical calculation skills. This can cause students to be disruptive or less focused in class. Some of these students have been allowed to use the calculator in class because the teacher does not want to spend more time teaching these students the basic skills they missed in their early years. Thus, the calculator is used to allow the teacher to continue teaching the lesson.
Research has also indicated that children can use the calculator at any grade level, as long as they are used correctly. Research indicates that the calculator should be used as a supplement to learning, not a replacement. Also, the teacher should be trained in the use of the calculator in classroom teaching. Research also indicates that most teachers are not trained in the use or misuse of calculators in classroom instruction.
This information is important, but let’s not forget that if students start using a calculator to solve simple mathematical calculations at a young age, what will prevent them from becoming addicted to it in the future? When will they know their schedules? In Japan, where children’s math scores are very high, children are not allowed to use calculators until they reach middle school level. Even then, students use the calculator sparingly. I suspect they use them at the secondary level in higher grades, like calculus.
Students who become addicted to using calculators lose their mental arithmetic skills. This can hurt them in the long run when more mental math may be needed. The old adage, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, is true. Students who stop using their brains to do math calculations will forget simple math tasks, so math will become more difficult for them. This is happening all over the United States.
Calculators, in general, aren’t bad, and at some point in a child’s upbringing, they should learn to use them. However, in the early years of learning mathematical concepts and skills, emphasis should be placed on paper/pencil and mental calculation methods. Early use of calculators can cause children to develop poor numeracy skills. Math problems at earlier ages need to be taught in repetition to build a thorough understanding of the skill. Children who learn to do mental math calculations develop strong numeracy skills that will be useful in their later years and in everyday life.
My son was enrolled in a second-grade class that did a lot of mental math to solve problems. The students were given several mathematical calculation problems and asked to find the answer using their brains. These students learned to mentally solve several calculation problems. All of them eventually became good math students, including my son. What would have happened to these students if they had been allowed to use a calculator whenever the teacher asked for the answers to these math problems?
Let’s face it, in today’s world we depend on machines, tools, computers and cell phones to do almost everything for us. Almost every gadget contains a calculator, from our cars to the cash register. This addiction has caused our society to lose part of its basic mathematical skills. When we go to a fast food restaurant or a grocery store, the cash register totals everything. All the person behind the ledger has to do is give back the change the “machine” tells them to give back. No thought is involved. At the time, every store had someone on the register who could add and subtract and give the “correct change” they were counting to the customer. Yes, reflection was involved! It should tell society that maybe we are doing something wrong because so many people have trouble with math.
When you think about how people learned math years ago, they were taught to memorize their multiplication tables, which taught students how to solve math calculation problems. It’s called mental math and most of us still remember our multiplication facts today. Moreover, the United States was one of the first university powers in the world. This country was also strong in mathematics. What changed? Technology was supposed to make us smarter. One thing that has changed is the way we use calculators in the classroom. (I must also admit that our society has changed along with family priorities. Education seems to have taken a back seat in many homes in this country)
This article is not trying to say that we don’t need technology or that the invention of the calculator is a bad thing. Technology has served us well, but we have to be careful about how and when we use it. Allowing a child to use the calculator regularly early in their school career may cause that child’s mathematical growth to be stunted. If a child does not develop these mental math skills at an early age, they will have a harder time learning math as they get older. This seems to be very obvious due to the problems our children have with math today.
As a child grows and develops good mathematical calculation skills through the use of pencil/paper and mental calculation, then the calculator can be a useful tool to support their learning. When children reach high school age and take higher level math courses, the calculator can be a very useful tool. At the secondary level, some of the math problems will require several time-consuming calculation steps if the student does not have the use of a calculator. This is a good time to use the calculator. This will free up time for the teacher to cover more material in class. Additionally, high school students take several standardized exams that allow them to use a calculator.
The general recommendation is that children do not use calculators in elementary school. Elementary-age children should develop as many mental math skills as possible before introducing them to a calculator. The best age for students to use the calculator regularly is during the high school years. Even then, students must use their brains to solve simple math problems. If these simple recommendations are followed, we could once again be one of the superpowers in math education.
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