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Discussion: Roundtable
Topic: Graphing Calculators


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Subject:   RE: Graphing Calculators
Author: beach math
Date: May 7 2007
I teach at a community college, and my recommendation would be to be very, very
careful how the calculators are used.  

I find that a large number of students who've completed Algebra 2 in high
school, and used graphing calculators, are unable to do the simplest algebra
problems without them.  Even something like 3-x=1 is a problem.  Really.  Many
students are so "calculator dependent," they haven't a clue whether their
answers are even remotely reasonable when doing simple addition and subtraction.
They have no idea how to double check their answers, and are ignorant of basic
math terminology, such as "constant" and "variable."  They can plug an exponent
into a calculator, but have no idea what exponents are and can't work with them
without the calculator.  They can't identify the slope of a line from the
equation.  They don't know what like terms are, or why they matter.
Essentially, what they learned in HS math was how to program a calculator.  Many
appear to have learned no math at all.

If you use a graphing calculator, it should be a tool for solving problems that
are truly cumbersome manually, and only after students understand how to work
without them.  Or for working with large amounts of data.  Students of average
intelligence simply don't need a calculator to graph simple linear equations, or
to solve first degree equations.  

Graphing calculators do wonderful things, but too often the calculator seems to
have replaced math classes rather than enhanced them.

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