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Fancy calculator & Math teaching.

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posted on Aug, 5 2007 @ 07:23 PM
When I did my high school (early 70’s), I never used a calculator. The only thing, I had, was a Pickett Slide Rule, a Logarithm table, plenty of quad pad & HB pencils. I learned, all the Math, Physics & Chemistry that you are supposed to learn at that age.

Later on, in junior college, and later on, in my University Years (Mechanical Engineering Degree), I then had several calculators, my more powerful one, probably my programmable Texas Instruments TI-59. And except for the University Mainframe (operated by punch card), I didn’t have access to a personnal computer.

I’m not nostalgic, of thoses years, but I have a hard time, understanding, why, despite of fancy graphic calculators, computer, Math softwares, students still have such a hard time, learning the same stuff, that was taugh, year ago.

My question, is basically this:

What has gone wrong, over the last 30 or 40 years, that we think, that we need, all that “wizard” equipment (fancy calculator, dazzling computer graphic, Math software, etc.) in order to show (or teach or to make understand) Math, Physics & Chemistry concept, that has not changed much in year (most of everything you learn, in junior college or early years of University, is roughly 150 to 200 years old, to start from, generation upon generation of text book, has probably master every thing, there is to master, in term of best way of showing it, coming up with example, etc.)?

Is it because, the new generation of students, are dumber?, lazyier? Left on their own resources, without parents around, so you need all the bell and whistle of modern gizmo’s to entertain them to death? (since they have an attention span of 3 or 4 seconds).

So you have that new Texas Instruments (TI-Nspire), it is suppose to address teacher concerns, fine, will it change anything in school teaching?, In five years, from now, will we refer to before and after the TI-Nspire era?

posted on Aug, 6 2007 @ 02:23 AM
Based on what I saw in high school, and the homework my sister asked me for help on in math and physics 5 years later, I'd say that the curriculums are getting dumbed down. It seems like they are focused on 'getting the answer' rather than 'understanding'. For instance, my sister could graph on her calculator a curve like 1+x^2, but she couldn't tell me without using the calculator that this is a parabola opening upwards.

When I was in university (graduated 2006 in Electrical engineering) I took many math, physics and engineering courses. In the math courses, interestingly enough, calculators were not allowed on the exams. You had to actually know what you were doing. In the physics/engineering courses, we were allowed calculators, but all that they were really useful for was the number crunching. Sure, I can do 557.645 watts divided by 23.321 volts by hand, but why should I? That was all we really needed the calculator for; the testmaker could just as easily have made it 500 watts and 25 volts and banned the calculator.

My cousin's kids, who are even younger than my sister (the oldest is like 14 or something) have the mistaken idea that the calculator will basically solve all their math problems without them having to think. Any time they get a word problem or something, their first response is 'how do I make the calculator do it?'

I think it's a combination of laziness and dumbing down the curriculum, as well as a decrease in the quality of teachers graduating school today.

One of my engineering professors in my first year said something that I never forgot. He said, speaking of real life engineering, "if you can't do it without a computer, it isn't safe for you to do it with the computer." He explained that you cannot just rely on a computer/calculator for the numbers. You have to know enough to know when the computer might be wrong, or when you get an answer that is wrong because you typed in the data wrong. You have to be able to recognize this. Otherwise, you get bridges collapsing because you missed a decimal point on the tonnage they can hold or something.

posted on Aug, 7 2007 @ 10:14 AM
The less you use something, the easier it becomes to rely on external devices/people to do the work for you.

I remember using a calc in high school only for trigonometry. Our teachers expected to see each step on how we got the answer. No mark unless you show your work, even if you had the right answer.

Near the end of high school, I remember teachers concentrating more on the answer, and not caring how you got to it.

Just my 2 (Soon to be on par with the US) CDN cents.

posted on Aug, 7 2007 @ 10:29 AM
In my view, a calculator should only be used for extremely tedious tasks. Stuff like basic arithmetic on very large numbers, trigonometry (ever try to find cosine of 10 by hand? It can be done, but it's no fun), logarithms, powers, and stuff like that. It should not be used as a substitute for intelligence.

posted on Aug, 8 2007 @ 07:41 AM
While I have to agree that it has to do somewhat with the curriculum not being the way
it was a few decades ago, I do think that computer programs are useful as well.

For instance, in my High School there was a class for kids who were'nt doing to good
in normal math classes, half of them just were'nt doing work, but the other half,
myself included just were'nt doing well in the normal classes, which may have actually
had to do with the way they were teaching, but did better using software.

I've never been really great at math, but two of the biggest problems I had was that
I never really got the math the way they were teaching it (in High School) and other times
I came to the answer in a different way than the teacher wanted us to.

In the long run, calculators really are just quicker for higher math for the majority of people,
I mean think about it, what's easier to do solve 217x3,044 on paper or just using a calculator?

posted on Aug, 8 2007 @ 05:29 PM
Decide what needs to be learned. Decide what should go on a calculator. Between the two, you should have a kid who knows what to say and how to work out what needs to be said.

posted on Aug, 8 2007 @ 10:50 PM
Its funny, I went though most of my schooling without a calculator, not because I didn't have access, but by choice. I tried to make sure I could do the math in my head as best as possible. Of course there were times when it was needed, as some math is far to complicated or time consuming not to use one, but in the end it made me feel good I could do math quickly and correctly without an aid. Now I work as a waiter at a family resteraunt and it shocks me how dumb some of these younger kids are with basic math. They can't do anything without a calculator. Same with at supermarkets and other places. Next time your at a place like Wal-mart or what not, when they ring in your # and it costs, say 23.53, wait give them 30 then when they punch it in the till, tell them to hold on and give them 53 cents. It will most likely throw them totally off and they wont be able to do it easily. Just remember to give them a hand and tell them it is 7 bucks back. I do it all the time.

posted on Nov, 3 2007 @ 09:11 PM

Originally posted by PopeyeFAFL

My question, is basically this:

What has gone wrong, over the last 30 or 40 years, that we think, that we need, all that “wizard” equipment (fancy calculator, dazzling computer graphic, Math software, etc.) in order to show (or teach or to make understand)

Is it because, the new generation of students, are dumber?, lazyier?

I'm a high school student and approaching my end of year exams.

On the examination papers you must show your methods. You get marks for the method and the correct answer.
Calculators are introduced so people don't sit there for for a whole examination trying to work out (23.938 x37.344)^2 manually.

The introduction of calculators have made life for students much easier, generalising I dont think you can say dumber. Lazyier perhaps, it saves alot of time and effort, but due to this there I know for fact that they are ganing some important teachings (using computer simulations) makes it easier for students to comprehend.

posted on Nov, 4 2007 @ 04:38 PM
I continue to be flummoxed by the lack of clarity and alacrity on the part of newer generation engineering students, scientist, and so on.

Rosie O'Donnell that paragon of intellect and all things goodness and light, a couple of years ago, most seriously observed that she didn't understand why, with the advent of computers that we need to keep teaching math and science.

And so it goes...

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