Technology Support: Calculators
Calculators are devices that assist with simple or lengthy computations. The earliest calculator, the abacus, is still in use in many cultures. Between 1600 and 1960, various mechanical calculators were used—including the logarithmic rule (1620) and slide rule (1622), the Odhner pin-wheel calculator (1874), and the Dalton 10-key add-listing machine (1902) (Tout, 2005). In 1961, the first electronic desktop calculators were sold in England. The first all-transistor calculators appeared in 1964 for about the price of a car at the time. Sharp produced the first battery-powered hand-held calculators in 1969, and the microprocessor-based calculator appeared in 1971. Hewlet-Packard introduced the first scientific pocket calculator in 1972 and by 1975, prices for all handheld calculators had dropped significantly, allowing use by classroom teachers and students. Solar-powered calculators were introduced in 1978. The Little Professor, a dedicated calculator for mathematics practice, appeared in the same year (Texas Instruments) and assumed the opposite function of a calculator—it gave the question and asked for the answer .
Today, calculators are available in many sizes (even on cell phones and in notebooks) with varying functions and applications. The basic types used in school are four-function, scientific, and a range of graphing calculators. Other dedicated calculators (hand held or web-based) are used for specific applications such a loan amortizations, measurement conversions, and currency conversions.
The calculator is considered an “assistive technology device” under IDEA. Calculators can be purchased through special education funding if designated on an IEP and used “to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of [individuals] with disabilities” (§300.5). However, the IEP team must specify how such an assistive device is to be used to enhance access to the general education curriculum. If calculator use is determined necessary and required per the IEP, it must be allowed to the extent specified.
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