Calculators in the Mathematics Classroom
Mathematics educators have long understood the value of calculators in the study of mathematics. Since 1976, NCTM has published numerous articles, books, and position statements, all advocating the regular use of calculators in the teaching of mathematics at all grade levels. In its 2005 position statement on computation and calculators, NCTM clarified its long-standing view that there is an important place in the curriculum for both calculator use and the development of a variety of computational skills (www.nctm.org).
Unfortunately, the everyday use of calculators in society, coupled with professional support of calculators in schools, has had a muted impact on the mathematics classroom, especially at the elementary level. Resistance to the use of calculators has diminished but not disappeared. The vocal minority of detractors to the reform movement often assail the use of calculators as "dumbing down" the curriculum or as a "crutch." Their inflammatory rhetoric often resonates with parents, who want what is best for their children. Parents must be made aware of the fact that calculator use will in no way prevent children from learning mathematics; in fact, calculators used thoughtfully and appropriately can enhance the learning of mathematics. Furthermore, parents must learn that the use of both calculators and computers requires the student to be a "problem solver." Calculators always calculate according to the input information. Calculators cannot substitute for understanding.
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