Since many current calculators are now CAS (computer algebra systems) with graphing capabilities, the term calculator can be used interchangeably with math technology.
Calculators: The Good
Here are some reasons why calculators and technology should be used in the classroom. A teacher can focus on these as teaching points in order to make sure the calculator is being used appropriately as a tool instead of a crutch.
- Technology can reinforce math skills (order of operations).
- Calculators can help you get answers to the problems in your book.
Not sure about the answer for problem 16? Maybe a calculator can
- Technology can save us a lot of time: They allow us to focus on the
steps for solving a problem without having to worry about a lot of the
- Graphing calculators can graph most functions quicker and better than
- Technology is useful in testing conjectures.
- Technology forces students to learn a new, practical set of skills and
concepts which are important issues in jobs relying on math.
- Calculators are a necessary part of the sciences. Physics and Chemistry
have many problems that are too difficult or too time consuming to do
by hand. Any person studying in a science needs to know how to use
a calculator properly.
- Technology lets us examine more complicated and/or realistic prob-
lems: For example, most equations and integrals that arise in ”real”
world applications can’t be solved. Now realistic problems can be stud-
ied because technology can help simplify the difficult parts.
- Using technology can make math more interesting to students which will make them more likely to take more math classes.
Calculators: The Bad
Here are some reasons why calculators and technology can be harmful to a student's mathematical maturity. By being aware of the pitfalls, a teacher can make sure the calculator is being used appropriately as a tool instead of a crutch.
- All technology uses a finite number of numbers to represent an infinite number of
numbers. This means they are all subject to various problems such as overflow and underflow.
- Some calculations/graphs can’t be performed on a calculator.
- Some calculations are wrong on purpose.
- Graphing calculators have bugs like software.
- Calculators are great for checking conjectures but can’t prove many of them.
- The repetoire of problem solving approaches declines because students go to the
calculator first. It becomes a crutch. [Tingyao Zheng]
- The efficiency of getting an answer from a calculator may cover a lack of conceptual
understanding of a subject matter. [Tingyao Zheng]
- It’s difficult to debug the mistakes a student makes when a calculator is used.
- Technology may furnish very different meanings and functions to the notations used
in conventional mathematics. [Tingyao Zheng]