Theory of Knowledge, Area of Knowledge – Mathematics: Are calculators killing our ability to work it out in our head?

Since the 1980s we have had access to calculators of various types. Today, we can include computers and smartphones which are attached to our hip 24/7. So does this ubiquitous access to calculators affect our ability to do maths in our heads like we used to? Thirty years ago calculators promised immense opportunity – opportunity, alas, that brought considerable controversy. The sceptics predicted students would not be able to compute even simple calculations mentally or on paper. Multiplication, basic facts, knowledge would disappear. Calculators would become a crutch. The controversy has not dissipated over time. As recently as 2012, the UK government announced it intended to ban calculators from primary classrooms on the grounds that students used them too much and too soon. Research conducted in response to this found little difference in performance tests whether students used calculators or not. An earlier US study had found the same: the calculator had no positive or negative effects on the attainment of basic maths skills. Researchers recommended moving the conversation on. What types of tasks and activities suit calculators? How can calculators complement and reinforce mental and written methods of arithmetic in maths? Does the ubiquitous access to calculators affect our ability to do maths in our heads like we used to? Read the entiree article here!

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