Calculators: To Be or NOT to Be... Used? ...by Our Kids in Doing Math?
by Barb Shelton and Friends (Becky, Amy, Rosemary, and Leah)
When talking about Math, the question of whether or not it's a good idea to allow our kids to use calculators invariably arises. Here's what one concerned mom ~ who asked, and got two different answers ~ wrote: "My 14yearold son is in Saxon Algebra 1/2 and says his friend's mom lets her son use the calculator for the answers. It seemed strange to me, yet I called our local Math store who sells curriculum and asked them what they thought. They said, 'The real world uses calculators, so don't worry about it if he wants to use it, let him.' Again, I was surprised. So I called Saxon, and they said, 'No, we do not recommend using calculators until Algebra II.' ... What is your view, as I really don't know what is "OK"? I don't want to be a legalist, yet isn't there something missing when they don't have to really "figure" out the answer?"
My response to this is... Yes, something IS missing ~ a lot of time that they could be spending elsewhere! No, actually I do have some semiintelligent thoughts on this which I'll share in just a moment. (Don't get your hopes up; remember I said "SEMIintelligent"! )
So as long as they know those four basic math operations and then the formulas for HOW to get an answer, I say let your kids GO FOR IT with the calculator! And if my word isn't enough, here are the thoughts of two other homeschooling moms...
Becky shared: "I let my children use calculators only when they are learning to use the calculator itself, not learning and practicing math concepts. What I mean is, there are ways to figure problems out on the calculator that help when you are at the store, but they DO need to know how to think it through themselves, just in case...I can't count how many times I have gone in a store during a storm or other "computer down time" and the checkers can't even count out the change without their computers or calculators!" ~
Amy said: "My "take" on calculators is this... My 14yearold is doing a combination of Singapore Math and Saxon Algebra 1. I *might* let him use the calculator a couple of problems per *week*, depending on how he has done in his math that day... if his figuring is up to speed, I might choose to let him use the calculator IF he shows a complete understanding of how the problem is working. If his figuring (and/or understanding) needs work, I make him *work* on it! My 13yearold, doing Singapore and Saxon 7/6, is NOT allowed to use the calculator. That's just my way of making sure (or trying to make sure) they get the practice they need. My 13yearold also does every problem in every Saxon set. My 14yo is reviewing some Algebra 1 concepts before getting up into new stuff, so we are not only skipping some problems, but also (gasp) skipping LESSONS. When we get up to the point where he is learning new material, we'll slow it down. I, too, believe in repetition, but you have to know your own child. If he's missing several problems, do EVERY one (but maybe not a whole lesson per day....do115 on day 1, and 1630 on day 2). If he has the stuff down pat, feel free to move more quickly...perhaps doing every problem in the first part of the set (where the "newer" stuff is), and skipping some problems in the second half. IMHO, Saxon has plenty of repetition built right in, even with doing odd problems. Again, that's just OUR way of doing it...not the RIGHT way!
Rosemary, had this to say:
"In
regards to Math, we live in a calculator world. When I was growing
up there were no calculators, and everything needed to be done by
hand. When we got into High School (we use A Beka for Math) in Grade
8, I started letting them use the calculator for percents only.
There were all kinds of different methods for figuring out
percentages and I figured if they didn't know which one to use, it
didn't mater whether they used the calculator or figured them out. I
did not let them uses the % button, but they had to use the decimal
equivalent. It worked well for us. As things got more complicated,
in the higher grades, they had to do a few problems by hand, and if
they knew how to do it, they could then use the calculator...
As I said we live in a different world today then when we were in
school and EVERYBODY uses one today, and I see no harm in letting
them use it." And to close this discussion of "to be or NOT to be" allowing our kids use calculators, Leah shared: I coordinate the state required homeschool testing in our area. The testing company lets the kids (homeschool and public schools) use calculators IF every child in the room has one, or at least has access to one. (Some parents will just bring one and tell their child NOT to use it. It can sometimes help keep the peace.) The children can use the calculators in the "problem solving" section, but not on the "procedures" section. So, it will show in the scores if the child REALLY doesn't know how to do basic math."
That sure makes sense to me! In fact, come to think of it, it's pretty much exactly what I said to begin with!
And here is a related issue...
This article was actually an offshoot of "The Problem with Math"  by Barb Shelton
I got the background from
...and the kidsonpencils from:
