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RotmanJ
Posts:
95
Registered:
12/6/04


RE: 4 function calculators  and, why Arithmetic?
Posted:
Feb 9, 2013 3:56 PM



I noticed that Lillian Seese started this discussion by commenting that simple 4function calculators were *almost* impossible to find.? That's true, as I mostly see them as parts of other stuff  key fobs and cell phones, for example.? Certainly the marketing of calculators is heavily influenced by the low cost of adding more features  why pay $5 for a simple calculator when you can pay $7 for one with twice the features.
Of course, I noticed that the discussion has migrated in to a general conversation of calculators as a tool (in various ways).? Reasonable statements of pros and cons have been made.
However, a more basic question must be raised  WHY do we see a need to teach arithmetic?
Once upon a time, arithmetic was an advanced topic; pupils would learn about number systems, properties, and the reasoning behind operations.? I've read people state that arithmetic was more of a university topic than a grammar school (K8) topic.? Learning fractions, for example, involves many layers of knowledge  if we want people to understand (and remember); given two months, students could learn?this type of?arithmetic with fractions ... and another month for decimals.
Long before calculators became readily available, we had reduced 'arithmetic' down to the procedures commonly used in a given culture for computation.? The backbone of arithmetic  number systems and properties  was avoided as being either too difficult or unnecessary.? Correct computation is usually the most common assessment.
If we see 'arithmetic' as being the stuff commonly found in arithmetic and prealgebra courses & books, then we have little rationale for 'teaching' it.? Correct computation is needed in very few fields and in few academic courses  if we mean without technology.? Our client disciplines?and occupations?are much more interested in problem solving and thinking (quantitative reasoning sounds good to them).?
I believe that arithmetic (described above) has no place in a modern math curriculum.? Arithmetic is?a major problem for adults in our country, especially those from low power/low economic backgrounds; we have blocked many a student from pursuit of their dreams just because they could not perform addition of numeric fractions and similar 'skills'.? Our treatment for this lack is a course which induces students to compute correct answers within our course without any longterm benefit (understanding and reasoning).
I'm not trying to have a 'biggest poster' contest, so I'll stop.? Perhaps we can have a good conversation about whether arithmetic should be in our curriculum, and what we mean by 'arithmetic'.Jack Rotman Professor, Mathematics Department Lansing Community College (517)4831079?? rotmanj@lcc.edu (mailto:rotmanj@lcc.edu) www.devmathrevival.net (http://www.devmathrevival.net)
Original Message >From Joni Kessler <joan@distancemath.com (mailto:joan@distancemath.com)> Sent Fri 2/8/2013 8:53 PM To 'Phil Mahler' <MAHLERP@middlesex.mass.edu (mailto:MAHLERP@middlesex.mass.edu)>; 'mathedcc' <mathedcc@mathforum.org (mailto:mathedcc@mathforum.org)> Subject RE: 4 function calculators
Phil,
I totally agree. A few years ago I was hired to tutor a young woman who had failed Intermediate Algebra three times. Except for her math requirements, she had completed her requirements for nursing. The nursing courses that required math allowed the use of calculators. After 3  4 sessions, I believed that she had a learning disability and no matter how well she grasped the concepts, the arithmetic would hold her back. I suggested she get tested, and sure enough she did indeed have a LD. After documentation, I spoke with the Dean and Professor at the college and they gave her permission to use a 4 function calculator. She aced the course, and subsequent courses, graduated and eventually got her MS and RN.
Joan S. Kessler (formerly Bookbinder) Broward College Ft. Lauderdale, FL
BTW, be careful in the storm.......... be safe my old friend. Good to see you online.
Original Message From: ownermathedcc@mathforum.org (mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org) [mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org] (mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org]) On Behalf Of Phil Mahler Sent: Friday, February 08, 2013 6:49 PM To: mathedcc Subject: Re: 4 function calculators
I know that few, if any, will agree, but I don't see why we try to teach the "tables" and algorithms using the tables to college students, especially those with diagnosed learning disabilities. Defending this fully would take more words than anyone wants to read, and still would not be convincing to most, but I cannot resist suggesting that a reader consider reflectively "what would happen to most of these students if they could use a regular fourfunction calculator (even with with the dreaded fraction key, percent, and square root) to do their college mathematics?".
My response: They would be more likely to graduate and have a better life than they are likely to under our present practices, which have extremely low success rates.
I once had a NEMATYC colleague who wrote an arithmetic text in which every problem was stated in words  "in context" or "authentic" might describe it. If a student with a calculator could do the problems in that situation, I would believe that student was fairly successful. In fact I would propose that many of our students who can do arithmetic mentally (or using their digital calculator called their hands) would not be as proficient in really using arithmetic.
This is getting too long already. I merely restate by reference the quoted question in the first paragraph.
Phil
p.s. I have to agree with Ed's observation about using a calculator as a teaching tool, but am concerned about the time element for an adult. My statements above reflect my belief that our present practices don't help most students and are just barriers to a better life. And that this is because we bog the students down in an onerous, often detested, curriculum that is just too discouraging, to say nothing of ineffective.
On Feb 8, 2013, at 11:45 AM, "Seese, Lillian M." <LSeese@stlcc.edu (mailto:LSeese@stlcc.edu)<mailto:LSeese@stlcc.edu>> (mailto:LSeese@stlcc.edu>>) wrote:
We were very happy to hear that we could use fact sheets, because, as you point out, filling them in is a great opportunity to find patterns that can then be generalized. Oh well.
From: Edward D Laughbaum [mailto:elaughba@math.ohiostate.edu<http://math.ohiostate.edu>] (mailto:elaughba@math.ohiostate.edu<http://math.ohiostate.edu>]) Sent: Friday, February 08, 2013 10:44 AM To: SpencerBarnes, Amanda G (Hazard); Seese, Lillian M.; mathedcc@mathforum.org (mailto:mathedcc@mathforum.org)<mailto:mathedcc@mathforum.org> (mailto:mathedcc@mathforum.org>) Subject: RE: 4 function calculators
Lillian & Amanda,
The educational value of any calculator is decreased when it is thought of and used as a tool to do mathematics. I think this is what you are both suggesting  it is a tool used to do arithmetic. The issue is that this thinking decreases any possibility of using a 4function calculator as a tool to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, fractions and decimals. Basic arithmetic operations are loaded with patterns that can be capitalized upon to teach arithmetic. Even at the lowest level of mental processing, the brain is still a great pattern generalizer. The neural process of generalizing both creates a memory of the generalization and produces an understanding of the generalized content. The challenging part of this for teachers is being able to create/develop a pattern that students can generalize from.
Regards,
Ed ========================================== At 10:37 AM 2/8/2013, SpencerBarnes, Amanda G (Hazard) wrote:
Lillian,
Have you tried Dollar General, Family Dollar, or Dollar Tree stores? Sometimes they will have small, cheap models of calculators that are only fourfunction. I agree with you 100% as I believe it is important for students to learn these basic operations without a calculator. I have fought the same battle as you, because accommodations are not supposed to compromise the integrity of the course. However, we both know when part of the competencies for the course state that we must teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, allowing the use of even a fourfunction calculator compromises the integrity of the course.
Good luck on your search!
Amanda
Amanda SpencerBarnes Assistant Professor of Mathematics Advisor  Phi Theta Kappa Technology Coordinator  KYMATYC Hazard Community and Technical College 601 Jefferson Avenue Jackson, KY 41339 (606)6667521 ext. 73530
Higher Education Begins Here
Change won't happen until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing. Emory Austin
Big men become big by doing what they didn't want to do when they didn't want to do it.  Source Unknown
From: ownermathedcc@mathforum.org (mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org)<mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org> (mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org>) [ mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org<mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org>] (mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org<mailto:ownermathedcc@mathforum.org>]) On Behalf Of Seese, Lillian M. Sent: Friday, February 08, 2013 10:13 AM To: mathedcc@mathforum.org (mailto:mathedcc@mathforum.org)<mailto:mathedcc@mathforum.org> (mailto:mathedcc@mathforum.org>) Subject: 4 function calculators
This is a follow up to my request for where to by 4function calculators (without square root or % buttons), which I am sending because of all the questions I received from you.
First, "why would anyone want a 4function calculator?" Our special needs students have always been given the accommodation of a4function calculator if they need it for number facts. Recently, they have been hard to find, and so our office which evaluates students' needs for accommodations says, "calculator or fact sheet." We thought that meant that we could eliminate calculators altogether for basic math tests on whole numbers, but we were told that we could only eliminate the use of the last 2 keys  say, glue them down? But if we didn't want to do that, we could withhold the calculator for problems involving percents and square roots, and make fact sheets available. All of this seems pretty weird, so we went on a search for 4function calculators  hence my email to you.
Second, Lillian Seese Professor of Mathematics St Louis Community College at Meramec 11333 Big Bend Blvd. Kirkwood MO 63122 9847773
It turns out that the only place we've found them is on those sites where you can customize coffee mugs, pencils, etc. for example, "rushimprint.com<http://rushimprint.com (http://rushimprint.com)>" sells a solar 4function calculator for $2.57
I sometimes think we are the only department left that feels that learning whole number operations, with borrowing, lining up place values, combining like terms, etc. is important. thanks to all of you who responded to me!
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