1. The main reason schools “have this big thing against using calculators to help with standard/straightforward maths” is discernment. No-one disputes that it’s great that we can use a tool (a calculator, the internet) to more quickly find an answer, but without the skills that tool is replacing, how do you discern the quality of that answer? The difference is between using a tool, and in being a slave to the tool; without a good grounding in the core skills that the tool replaces (i.e. good mental maths skills), you are much closer to the latter.

    • I’m all for balance, but it feels wrong to call using a calculator cheating. It labels it as bad and makes kids feel stupid if they want to use one. If a calculator can help them process, understand and figure out problems (which will then help them do them mentally), then why label using a calculator as cheating?

      I did some storytelling using maths recently and we used a calculator to help us with the numbers, look at what number we got to – http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosiesherry/9459214149/

  2. I also think you are missing out on a lot of fun. I enjoy working out that actually, you do know the 16 times table, because 16 = 2 x 8, so it’s just 2 x the 8 times table. That means that 9 x16 actually is 9 x 8 = 72 x 2= 144. And oh look, that’s 12 x 12, because you can break it down as 9 x 16 = 3×3 x 4×4, rearranged is 3 x 4 x 3 x 4 = 12 x 12. The same thing works in reverse. If 48 divides by 2 to leave 24, and 24 divides by 8, that means 48 must divide by 8 x 2 = 16.

    Yes, I still use a calculator, but I really enjoy doing that kind of mental gymnastics, and if I always used a calculator I would never have spotted half of those relationships. Plus it’s a very useful skill at the end of restaurant meals, or in my knitting (how many times does a pattern repeat fit in the number of stitches I have), or even just in getting the ballpark feel for whether my calculated answer is right.

    • Fun is a matter or perspective though? Perhaps someone can have just as much fun exploring within a calculator? And why can’t a calculator help you find those relationships? If you choose to? If it helps bring confidence to the person learning (rather than getting stuck or having to ask for help – which many kids don’t like to do in a classroom setting).

      I’m all for mental maths. I just don’t agree that tools like calculators and the internet should be perceived as cheating. There should be more balance.

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