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Calculators in primary schools: help or hindrance?

General Info November 29th 2017
Calculators in primary schools: help or hindrance?

It seems like the further the technological revolution drives on, the greater the concern of teachers and parents that school children are becoming too reliant on technology to give them the answers. More recently, the most prominent concern has been that the ubiquity of the internet has made it too easy to gain access to quick answers and ephemeral knowledge that, once it has been utilised for its sole purpose of solving the question, is completely dismissed and forgotten. Some are even concerned that tablets and interactive whiteboards are having a detrimental impact on young children's written English and comprehension. Undoubtedly, the catalyst for the pockets of resistance towards technology in schools, though, was the introduction of the calculator.

Should calculators be banned? - In 2012, calculators were banned from school desks for KS2 SAT examinations, but is this fair given that we now have access to a calculator whenever we might need one via our mobile phone? If schools are supposed to set children up to succeed in the workplace, surely it is imperative that they teach them how to use calculators properly? Of course, as with anything, over-reliance needs to be avoided. However, the crucial point to make here is that calculators do not and cannot replace the child's ability to think. Complex problems that are not set out as neat, straightforward sums on the page will still require a level of critical thinking and problem solving from a child. Often, a calculator can even assist a child in understanding a problem they would have never been able to comprehend with only a marker pen and a whiteboard desk at their disposal.

Calculators are highly beneficial - Another important factor to consider is that calculators create important efficiency savings that not only allow a child to increase their work capacity, but also allow the teacher more room and freedom to teach more advanced mathematical skills that will serve children a great deal more in their academic and career journeys than knowing their twelve times tables by heart, for example.

Calculators are also highly beneficial to children that would traditionally be put off of mathematics because they struggle with simple mental arithmetic. A calculator may enable them to stick to their classroom chairs and work out a problem knowing they have this assistance. Even those with Dyscalculia, sometimes wrongfully thought of as hopeless lost causes, can gain a better understanding of mathematics with a calculator than without. Far from developing students who have false confidence in their mathematical ability, as critics have purported, calculators can evidently assist in providing knowledge to those most in need.

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