Is using a calculator for math comparable to using a word processor for English? Is the calculator an arithmetic checker like the word processor is a spell or grammar checker?
My friend Jeff makes a good point about technology integration (advances) in English. Students that use a word processor must still proof their writing. Do we worry that kids won’t learn to write because of spell check or grammar check? Or, do we think that because of these tools they are free to concentrate on ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation? (Okay, conventions have to do with grammar and spelling, but I’m making a point here.)
The grammar or spell checker does not always catch “there” when I mean “their”. A calculator will not catch that I meant (-2)^2 when I entered -2^2. The calculator does not know that I mean 1+(6+4)/2 when I enter 1+6+4/2.
As Peyton pointed out in the Writing Workshop meeting, MS Word will not alert you to your error in writing “warmest retards” when you meant to write “warmest regards”. Your calculator will not alert you to an entry error; it will not know that you entered -3.75 when you wanted -3.57.
The spell checker automatically corrects some of my incorrect spelling. When I type “recieve” it automatically changes it to “receive”. When I type “calcualtor”, the word automatically changes to “calculator”. When I write “I never here anyone…”, the grammar checker alerts me to check my spelling or word choice. The Nspire calculator will autocorrect a little bit, but it assumes what you mean. For example, if you open parentheses, it will close them. However, you must make sure that it closes where you intend to end the grouping.
This is an interesting place for me in my thinking. I know that it has to do with age appropriate learning. I believe that young children should learn their numbers and arithmetic just like they learn their letters and words. I believe that junior high students should learn how to graph and solve equations by hand, graphically, with tables and spreadsheets, and with technology.
How much more could we learn about algebra, calculus, and statistics if we used technology to accommodate 8th graders that struggle to compute? Don’t our students need to spend more time on data gathering, mathematical modeling, and interpreting graphs and less time on mechanics.
Have you seen Conrad Wolfram’s Ted talk Teaching kids real math with computers? What do you think?
Just look at any TED talk by Hans Rosling to see examples of how critical the analysis and synthesis of mathematical information is to our future.
If having a “contacts” list on our cell phones can lead to us no longer knowing phone numbers (not a big deal, I admit, but it’s the metaphor that popped into my head), and if spell check can lead to us no longer remembering some of the spellings that it autocorrects, then could the computational use of the calculator lead to decline in numeracy? If I don’t know that (-2)^2 and -2^2 yield different simplifications, how will I check for “makes sense?” Or will over-time use and practice with computation on calculator lead to enhanced numeracy? How will we know?
[…] Recently, Bill Ferriter posted a brilliant piece entitled “Can Texting Help Teens with Writing and Spelling?” Instantly, it reminded me of Jill Gough’s extraordinary post, “Calculator is to Arithmetic as Spell Checker is to Spelling???” […]