Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Calculators OK in Math

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Calculators OK in Math

Article excerpt

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Calculators are useful tools in elementary mathematics classes, if students already have some basic skills, new research has found. The findings shed light on the debate about whether and when calculators should be used in the classroom.

"These findings suggest that it is important children first learn how to calculate answers on their own, but after that initial phase, using calculators is a fine thing to do, even for basic multiplication facts," says Bethany Rittle-Johnson, assistant professor of psychology in Vanderbilt's Peabody College of Education and Human Development and coauthor of the study.

Rittle-Johnson and coauthor Alexander Kmicikewycz, who completed the work as his undergraduate honors thesis at Vanderbilt, found that the level of a student's knowledge of mathematics facts was the determining factor in whether a calculator hindered his or her learning. "The study indicates technology such as calculators can help kids who already have a strong foundation in basic skills," says Kmicikewycz, now a teacher in New York City public schools.

"For students who did not know many multiplication facts, generating the answers on their own, without a calculator, was important and helped their performance on subsequent tests," Rittle-Johnson adds. "But for students who already knew some multiplication facts, it did not matter--using a calculator to practice neither helped nor harmed them. …

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