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Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by ic3g1rl, Aug 4, 2011.

  1. Having finished with a whole bunch of GCSE students, both foundation and higher, I've found that they are all consistently getting less marks on the calculator paper compared with the non-calculator one. When I've tried to sort out why an immediate problem is the students can't seem to use their calculators properly. For instance, the standard form question is always badly answered, when using a calculator, as most students seem completely unable to enter the powers of 10 required in the question.
    Has anyone else noticed this trend? Has anyone else thought about why this may be so?
  2. Having finished with a whole bunch of GCSE students, both foundation and higher, I've found that they are all consistently getting less marks on the calculator paper compared with the non-calculator one. When I've tried to sort out why an immediate problem is the students can't seem to use their calculators properly. For instance, the standard form question is always badly answered, when using a calculator, as most students seem completely unable to enter the powers of 10 required in the question.
    Has anyone else noticed this trend? Has anyone else thought about why this may be so?
  3. DM

    DM New commenter

    Many schools feel unable to make students to bring calculators to school and consequently they never learn how to use one properly. They usually just borrow one from their teacher and may well end up with a different model each time.
  4. Maths_Mike

    Maths_Mike New commenter

    I agree with DM. Have real problems getting kids to bring calculators and many even turn up to the exam without one.
    We of course attempt to teach them but the probability they will turn up for the exam with the same calculator they used in class seems remote.
    I consistently tell the kids this and that not only must they have a calculator they MUST know how to use it for
    Std Form
    etc etc but my words fall on deaf ears and seemingly we do not have powers to force kids - I cant even expect them to have a pencil "as legally the school should provide all required equipoment" (something I dont subscribe to).
    The problem is made worse by the different ways calculators now work with write veiw and maths modes being excellent if and only if the kids know how to use them.
  5. I agree that the problem is not having calculators in class. I am told to expect every pupil to have a calculator, but if they have one between two I consider it a success in some classes (generally the middle ability classes). We also have no school calculators (but do sell them if a pupil has the money to buy one) so any I lend out are my own personal property and I refuse to lend them any more since the last 5 I lent out were stolen/broken and the most I was allowed to do the child who broke/stole them was a detention.
  6. I agree with what was said above, but i'd add that the kids (in particular the higher end of the foundation tier) seem to do worse in calculator exams because the questions seem to test concept rather than application. That is in a non calculator test they will be heavy on the calculations like find 35% of £240 (or equiv. basic calculation, but with a range of difficulty). In the calculator they will expect the students to understand concepts, so they do worse.
  7. I do agree with what has been said above that it is important to know how to use the calculators, but I think that they (especially higher end of the foundation tier) do worse because non-calc paper tests calculations and application and calc. paper tests understanding.
    Most of my students do bring a calculator (this has taken a lot of effort in my part) and they do know how to use them (I dedicate lessons to this, and it is often a point of contention after exams that they didn't even use it in the calculator paper!
  8. The worrying point I find is the reluctance to use the calculator, and this seems to affect both higher and foundation students. I have to constantly remind students that they can use their calculator to work out answers during paper 2 revision. All my students seem to try using mental methods to work out arithmetic solutions. This would be wonderful if they were successful but is so pointless when they could use the calculator. Interestingly all my students successfully use the calculator to work out trigonometric problems.
    As bobboots has said paper 2 tends to look at application, this could explain why students have more difficulty with this paper. However, I think the truth is probably related to the fact that, as has been said, most don't use a personal calculator so never gain competency in its usage.
    This then begs the question 'What purpose is served by the calculator paper?' Anyone got any thoughts on this?
  9. Firstly, it is good to see ic3g1rl back again. I hope we don't offend you again!
    Am I the only Maths teacher who gets confused with all the different types of calculators, modes etc? (let alone the pupils). I seem to spend so much time resetting pupils calculators so that they are in the best mode for their requirements. If there could be one particular calculator aimed solely for GCSE exams it would be so helpful. Okay, it might mean that some pupils would have to buy a new calculator for A level but I'm thinking of something which should be able to retail for about £3.

    We get so frustrated with pupils using no calculator methods for percentage questions on calculator papers. Usually unsuccessfully and evn if hey are succesful, what a waste of time! Like Maths Mike, we are up against a SMT who tell us that we cannot insist that pupils even bring a pen. The Education Act does imply this but sometimes you do expect SMT to use a modicum of sense and turn a blind eye to what it says. Are parents really going to "know their rights in law" and challenge it. Our head seems to run scared at the possibility.
  10. DM

    DM New commenter

    We insist all students bring a pen, pencil, ruler and calculator or they get a sanction. Form tutors do an equipment check every morning and issue the sanctions. Three sanctions = strictly enforced one hour after school detention in complete silence. There have not been any parental complaints and it has been grudgingly accepted by students.
    We do still have some nonsense such as students carrying broken calculators to pass the equipment check but it seems to be working.
  11. I can only dream! Obviously as a department we insist on the basics and try our best to get pupils to do lunchtime detentions if they regularly fail to bring basic equipment but Maths seem to be seen as the bad guys compared to other subjects which have a far more relaxed approach. We also have a standard letter to send hom to the parents of persistent offenders but when you know that there just isn't the support from above you gradually lose the will to fight! After much pressure from me the school decided to have an equipment check. I happened to be free the lesson they chose so I did it for all the Maths classes and gave appropriate feedback to SMT. I also issued merits to pupIls who had everything. I then found out that lots of teachers in other subjects had not done the check and SMT did not take the matter any further. I asked for it to be done again properly but nothing ever happened. As a form tutor I have done regular checks and without any sanctions managed to get the vast majority of my kids bringing everything but I am totally out on my own doing this.
  12. DM

    DM New commenter

    Do you have any sort of Middle Management Group? I would suggest you raise this there and up the ante. If you don't have this sort of body, lobbying for one would be a good next step. Decisions about classroom issues are devolved to Subject Leaders in my school with SLT acting as their "enforcers".
  13. frustum

    frustum Lead commenter

    I tutored a disinterested year 11 who tended to turn up without homework, equipment, textbook I'd lent her, ...
    The first time she brought her calculator was the day before the GCSE calculator paper, and that was only because I reminded her the night before. She did a question which needed her to find the square root of 11. It was one of those calculators that gives answers in surd form, and she didn't know how to get the decimal. "Is this the calculator you're going to use tomorrow?"
  14. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    Surd form, fraction form, recurring decimal form. Too many modes for the average student.
    Maybe there's a market for a Foundation exam calculator.
  15. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    I agree with much of what has been said except for one thing. My kids often, though not invariably, do much better on the calculator paper.
  16. It really annoys me that they all know how to work their state of the art smartphones, which they remember to bring every day, but not their calculators.
  17. Tandy

    Tandy New commenter

    I would wager that every single year 11 student has a calculator in their pocket - it's called a mobile phone.

    I wish schools would stop arsing around with pathetic rules about not using phones in school - pointless and preventing all sorts of great opportunities for learning.

    So if they don't bring a casio or whatever, tell them to get their phone out. Some smartphones have great scientific calculators on them (or download as an app). Often more powerful than a normal calculator. And if they do have smartphones, let them connect to the school's wifi and bish-bash-bosh you have access to astounding calculating software.

    As for them not bringing them to school - ok, so it's happening, it's a pain. Well, that's how it is. You can either go about concentrating on what is going to help in terms of learning, or you can go on until you are blue in the face about something that in the grand scheme of things really doesn't matter. Every class should have a class set, numbered. At the start of each year assign one to each kid, so they know their number and always use the same one, make it part of the homeschool agreement that they are responsible for it during their lessons and that breakages will be charged.

    As for the acutal question, in part the calculator paper problem is to do with a lack of familiarity, but it is far much more to do with the concepts being tested and the nature of the wording of the questions.

    Also, few schools give enough focus to the effective use of a calculator or software, so we're not really preparing them well enough.
  18. DM

    DM New commenter

    They won't be allowed smartphones in their exams Tandy so this would be setting them up to fail.
  19. Tandy

    Tandy New commenter

    Yes, I know that they can't take them into exams. But it isn't setting them up to fail - it is far more appropriate to have every kid using their phone in a lesson to understand use of a calculator, than for them to go without. So all I am saying is if they don't have a calculator, tell them to use their phone. Better than nothing and still helps with understanding the process.

    I believe that every classroom should have a class set as I said above, so that would get rid of the need for a phone anyway.

    It is about time schools embraced mobile technology though.
  20. Maths_Mike

    Maths_Mike New commenter

    Hi Tandy
    Are you playing devil's advocate? or have you already been out of the classroom for so long that you have lost touch with reality?
    I agree smartphones have potential as learning tools - but the reality is that if we allow them to be used in the classroom the students will be playing games, sending texts, listening to music and updating their facebook (not to mention taking inappropriate pictures / videos of the lesson so some poor teacher can be humiliated on youtube)
    In theory fine smartphones have potential - in practice they are simply not going to be used effectively by the majority of kidfs in the majority of classrooms.

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