I've been writing this post in my head all week and was going to post it to In Another Place
, my other blog, but it seems a good way to get started at Classroom 2.0. Twice this past week, I heard two different people make essentially the same statement: the rise in the use of calculators has contributed to the deterioration of math skills in students. Because they can just punch in the numbers, they reason, they aren't really learning to do math.
I understand what they are saying, I guess, but I just don't buy it. Let's take learning to add as an example. There are two parts here: the concept of addition and the calculation of addition. The calculator doesn't replace the first part. You need a basic conceptual understanding that when you have three apple and someone gives you four apples, you are going to have to use addition to figure out how many apples you have. Assuming I've got that understanding, does it really matter what technology I use for the calculation part?
I don't think so. We learned to do addition the way we did because calculators were not ubiquitous. OK, OK, I can hear you saying, "But are calculators ubiquitous?" They certainly could be without too much trouble.
Here's my essential question: Are we far enough into the 21st century that we can completely abandon teaching students the old calculation method. Because I am bi-lingual with calculation, I can use a calculator OR use a pencil. I know how to carry the one. But, I remember when I couldn't do it and it was really frustrating. Long division was even worse. I understood the concept, grasped it pretty quickly in fact; I struggled with the calculation part, and even now, I'm not completely confident in my skills, so I will choose the calculator as the calculation tool.
I am definitely interested in what others think about this. Please comment or post your own entry. And, I'm wondering what other things we've always taught that we should be thinking about leaving behind (handwriting leaps to my mind).