Parents fear that the student learns after a mathematics course only how to use the buttons of a calculator. In addition, they fear that their sons would become so dependent on calculators that they can not do the simplest tasks without it. These fears are not justified and are due to their experience with mathematics which was long hours of paper and pencil calculations. The way mathematics is seen and practiced has changed dramatically today and it is not at all what they used to do. They used to see it as hard work spending endless hours with tedious paper and pencil calculations, formulas memorization, and algorithm implementation practice.
Mathematics today is about logic, sense, abstract thinking and problem solving skills. It is about the understanding of concepts and the application of appropriate methods. The mathematics manipulations are not the goal but are the low level tools for reaching the goal. This is the prime reason why the use of calculators is recommended for teaching mathematics from as early as kindergarten.
The emphasis of this article is how to in corporate calculators into the mathematics education system in order to get the best benefit. There are many different approaches to handle this problem but they all revolve around some basic principles.
The first point is the use of calculators to experiment with concepts and ideas. For example calculators can be used to experiment with percent, fractions, area, and volume. This makes the student actually takes an active role in the education process rather than a passive role sitting back and listening to the input information. It also has the advantage of making the student at ease with modern technology and breaks any psychological barrier with the modern technology.
The emphasis should be made on gaining data analysis and estimation skills. The student should look at the output of calculations with a scientific critical eye. His observation of the outputs should make him able to estimate and predict facts.
The speed at which the calculators can do tedious calculations should give the teachers more time to spend on understanding concepts. The books should be written in a way that allows more time for concept understanding and principles explanations.
Since calculators are used to solve tedious arithmetic calculations the books can contain problems with real life complicated numbers. This will produce realistic answers that relate to real life situations. The student should be allowed to gain ideas and experiences beyond that are limited to paper and pencil calculations. He should in other words experiment with calculations that are impractical to solve by hand.
Incorporating calculators according to these broad guidelines will not only improve the student mathematical abilities significantly but it will improve the student communication skills with other students and teachers. This is because he had an active role in his education and he communicated his observations with others. Moreover, the students would love mathematics and be very much excited about it. This agrees with all the research findings in the effect of using calculators in education.
The mathematics education equation is not composed of students and books only. The teachers play a significant role in the mathematics education equation. As a matter of fact they play the pivotal role. This is why there should be an agreed upon blue print that constitutes guidelines that aide teachers in how to use calculators effectively in education.
The teacher should model the use of calculators to the students in a variety of situations. In addition, he should incorporate the use of calculators in testing mathematics skills and concepts. Moreover, he should keep up to date with the latest trends of technology. Finally, he should experiment with how to make innovative new uses for calculators in teaching.
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