Q&A #1737

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Using the recent technologies in teaching mathematics

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From: Loyd

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2001111722:10:31
Subject: Re: History of Calulators in the Classroom

On 2001111720:13:22, Sylvia wrote:
>I am doing a report and would like to start it by discussing when
>calculators actual started to appear in the classroom. When I went to
>school they had slide rules but no calculators.  I have gone back to
>school and that is why I am working on a report.
>Thank you for your help.

Other people may be better at this than I as far as schools go.  In
1966-1968 I never saw a calculator in classrooms.  

In about 1969, I attended a workshop at a major university, and one of
the attending engineers had just purchased a HP reverse polish
calculator.  It cost almost $400.00, as I remember.  Not long after
that I purchased a TI calculator for about $100.00 and it was not as
capable as the current models of Sharp, Texas Instrument and Hewlett
Packard calculators that now sell for less than $10.00.

My first exposure to calculators was the Monroe mechanical calculator.
A professor where I was taking courses purchased 4 machines at about
$1000 each for use in his statistic courses.  This was somewhere
between 1964 and 1966.  These machines were marvelous, but not as
capable as the current models that sell for less than $10.00.  They
sounded beautiful when pounding out the sqares, sum of squares and
other statistic measures.  

I went to work in 1968 and we had access to an IBM mainframe that one
never saw, but prepared decks of punched cards and sent them by
courier to the computer location.  A couple of days later, the program
came back for the first debugging cycle.  After two or more attempts,
the completed run came back.  

In about 1970 or so, our office bought a Wang calculator (several
thousand dollars) which could be programed with assembly language and
was often called a minicomputer.  It was the size of a big typewriter
and printed out on 3 inch wide (more or less) roll of paper.  Great
machine, but not much more capable than the current TI-83 graphing

Soon, after, engineers begin buying calculators of all types.  Many of
the early companies went out of business.  

By 1985 there were some great calculators for about $20.00 such as a
sharps that would fit in a shirt pocket and would solve 3 equations
with three unknowns as well as all the functions necessary for
statistics, polar and rectangular coordinates, trig etc.  

As far as the 4 function calculators are concerned they started
showing up after the scientific calculators, but I have never used
them much to teach students since they don't follow the order of
operations whereas scientific calculators do.  My last purchased
calculator is a HP-6s which is small and very capable.  I paid 5.99
for it but notice that it is now selling for 7.99 now in the same

In 1990, I begin teaching again and used scientific calculators for
students to check their work.  I also taught GED classes and didn't
use calculators there except for checking.  Now, calculators are
permitted on GED Tests.  All algebra I and II students and above are
allowed to use graphing calculators on the Standards of Learning
(SOLs) tests.  They don't have to, however, unless they want to.

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