Calculators or no?

Published September 6, 2013 by Angela

I am finding myself (OK, putting myself) in a dilemma about whether or not I should let my 7th grader use a calculator for her homeschooled math. I know the public schools definitely allow it in high school, and I believe in middle school as well. I know I wouldn’t have gotten through all of my math and accounting classes for my Associates and Bachelors degrees without a calculator.

She hasn’t asked, but I reviewed her pre-test comprehension skills to see what pace she is at. Any mistakes were fairly simple ones that will take just some practice. As the book goes on, the work gets much harder.

Does anyone have any advice on if they do or don’t use a calculator, and why? I will be honest and say it is likely at some point in the near future I will be giving her my calculator. I also feel at some point as her math advances in future grades it will not be possible to solve math problems without a scientific calculator. Any thoughts on if I am cheating her out of a learning experience if I let her use a calculator?

4 comments on “Calculators or no?

    • I completely agree and I have been walking through the steps with her until she understands it. If she cannot do it by hand, I don’t think it will ever make sense to her, and she will never know how the calculator “came up with” the answer, or even why she needed the answer. I feel knowing the concepts is very important.

  • I would not recommend letting her use a calculator for everyday work. It is important to not only know the answer, but to see the method at how it was derived. Further arithmetic might be based on those early steps and that is when the method will really count.
    As a compromise, you might consider letting her use a calculator only on tests. This way she is doing full arithmetic on a general basis and you know she understands the method, but on tests she can move quicker and be less stressed.
    When it comes to scientific calculators, same concept; they are actually unnecessary (people lived without them for centuries and still did the same arithmetic), however they do speed things up. Do hand written work for day to day and use a calculator on tests.
    Good post!

  • I think that once she masters a skill such as fractions or basic algebra, once I see that she can get the correct answer and she understands why she did, I will show her how to do it on the calculator (without handing the calculator over quite yet!) 🙂

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