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Topic: Re: Data?and Dr. Zhang
Replies: 1   Last Post: Mar 20, 2001 10:27 AM

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Tony Ralston

Posts: 17
Registered: 12/8/04
Re: Re: Data?and Dr. Zhang
Posted: Mar 20, 2001 10:27 AM
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On 14 March John Knight wrote:

> >If it took us 20 years to figure out that calculators "had a negative
> >on students' learning of math", then we need to be careful about what
> >of math education computer science instruction begins, or we will never
> >figure out that computers have the same effect on learning as calculators
> >did.

I never can resist replying to statements of this kind.

There is no substantial evidence (NAEP notwithstanding) that the use of
calculators has intrinsically *any* negative effect on students' learning of
math. Sure, there are studies that purport to show such negative effects
but there are many more that purport to show positive effects. All such
studies are subject to criticism but totally uncontrolled studies like those
using NAEP data just cannot be used to make such a sweeping claim.

Yes, of course, calculators can be, are being and will be used in ways to
create negative effects. But they can, are and must be used to produce
positive effects. What we should be doing in American math education is not
to get rid of calculators but to make strenuous efforts to reinforce their
good use and to root out their bad use.

See, for example,

Tony Ralston
Professor Emeritus of Computer Science and Mathematics
SUNY at Buffalo

Academic Visitor
Department of Computing
Imperial College, London

phone and fax: (020) 7589 2195
Home Page:

Mailing address: Flat 4
58 Prince Consort Road
London SW7 2BA

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