
It has to be right: I used my calculator!
Posted:
Nov 24, 2004 12:44 PM


The continuing pseudoeducation of American students is demonstrated clearly by the mushrooming college enrolments in remedial mathematics courses. A key component of this pseudoeducation is the widespread, deliberate over reliance on calculatorswith no expectation that students understand elementary conceptswhereby students punch numbers into their calculators and are required to simply write down the last display.
At the beginning of this semester, in one of my remedial courses, I reviewed how to perform manual operations with simple fractions. The following operations were to be done manually, with all the steps written down. One student, among many, used his graphing calculator to obtain the following three correct answers. When I asked him to do them manually, he wrote the fractions in brackets.
(5/6)(9/10) = 3/4 [45/16]
(3/4):(7/8) = 6/7 [28/32] (: indicates division symbol)
(7/6)(3/8) = 19/24 [(73)/48 = 5/48]
When I pointed out that the following answer was wrong,
(3/4)+(5/12) = 14/15
he immediately snapped: "It has to be right: I used my calculator!"
The majority of the students in this class had graphing calculators. I would not be surprised if their pseudoeducation was promoted with the bogus slogans and empty boasts of pseudoeducators: "using technology to solve realworld problems," "twentyfirst century mathematics," "worldclass education," "calculators free the mind to solve more difficult problems."
Dom Rosa
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