Q&A #405

Are calculators beneficial?

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From: Vasha (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Jul 04, 1998 at 22:12:26
Subject: Re: Calculator use and mathematics assessment

A few things here are puzzling. Are you looking at the effect of calculator 
use in assessment, or in instruction? Do you have 3 groups or two? You 
mention 2 groups having a lesson "using the calculator" and and "the other 
group not using the calculator during the instruction."  Do 2 groups get a 
lesson on how to use the calculator, and a third group, a lesson that has 
calculators available?

It is good that the lesson will be new material to  both groups, but do you 
have a way to verify that? As for whether the calculator is beneficial, or 
inhibits development of a good mathematical foundation, that is a heavy 
question that may be determined more by the nature of the task you pose for 
students. What information would demonstrate understanding of the material? 
Getting a right answer is very limited evidence.

I guess you can tell I have struggled with developing good research 
questions! Calculators can support development of number sense and operations 
when children are given appropriate problems, (suggestions in NCTM Addenda 
Series) and students can certainly discover when they are useful or not.  It 
might be interesting to find out whether students think the calculator helped 
them to learn your material and in what way. I wonder what grade level you 
will be investigating.

Good luck with your project - keep your mind open!

 -Vasha, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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