There are still debates about whether calculators should be used when teaching math among school children. Some people say calculators allow children to concentrate better in terms of understanding the mathematical concepts instead of spending a tedious amount of time doing manual calculation. It also gives children the confidence in their math abilities as it can help to develop number sense. Learn more about the reasons to use calculators in math teaching.
Balance is key
There are educators that discourage the use of calculators as it prevents children from one of the most important reasons for learning math which is to train and discipline the mind and to promote logical reasoning. However, it really depends on the teaching approach as calculators can be used in a good way or a bad way. Calculators should be incorporated only after a child has learned to do mental calculations, master long division and other basic algorithms that can be done with a paper and pencil. This is because; if they do not learn about the basic stuff in mathematics, they would have a hard time learning other difficult math equations. The key here is to utilize calculators sparingly so that your child would not be too dependent on it. Activities such as special projects or teaching detailed concepts are suited to use a calculator.
Activities to do with a calculator
For younger kids who are just starting out with mathematics, you may allow them to explore numbers by adding 1 repeatedly. This can be done by pushing the “1 + 1” buttons followed by pressing the equals button repeatedly, subtracting is possible too. You will be amazed at your child’s reaction as they hit the negative numbers! Allow them to add or subtract other numbers as well. Another fun activity that can be done is to have your child build numbers based on certain criteria. For example, they can either create a three-digit number that requires the number “6” or make a four-digit number that is larger than 4000. Furthermore, an activity that can be done in a group setting with a calculator is to ask them to add various numbers until they reach a million. It would be a good idea to set a timer to make the game extra fun! If they pick smaller numbers and cannot reach it within the time frame, it can help them to understand how vast one million is. The above activities are great ideas but make sure that the calculator does not get in the way of helping a child learn mental math. No doubt it serves as a great tool to offer them exploration and observation, but certain concepts, rules of math should be explained after that.