# Use of Calculator age 6

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by loopyk8, Sep 1, 2011.

1. ### loopyk8

Hi all,

I am a secondary science teacher, my daughter has been requested to have a calculator for P2 (we live in Scotland). I am very concerned about this and when I checked with her teacher I was assured it would just be "used for checking".

I plan to meet with the head teacher to discuss this as I feel it is not appropriate for her to use a simple calculator at her stage, she needs the basics first like old fashioned tables and mental skills, am I being old fashioned? I think I need some advice

1) has any research been done of use of calculators in early years?
2) what situations would a calculator be of benefit to her learning?
3) how would a teacher manage this in class? I have a class set of simple calculators in my room which are used frequently but I am struggling to visualise twenty 5 & 6 year olds with different models checking work accurately - ?

Thanks for any views

loopy

2. ### DMNew commenter

Avatar loopy?

You could try the Scottish Secondary Forum too.

3. ### ic3g1rl

loopyk8, there are two ways to think of calculator use for this age group:
1) As a tool to explore operations. For instance, investigating what happens when you add odd and even numbers together. Here, the possible learning outcomes are broader than just worrying about can the pupils add the numbers together.
2) As a support to help those students who struggle with simple operations and so can't access all the curriculum. This is, sort of, the idea behind using the calculator to check calculations.
Personally I would want my child to be able to use the arithmetic operations correctly and would prefer them not to use a calculator whilst they are learning these skills, which at 6 strikes me as what they will need to be doing.
With regards to research this seems relevant:
Research on Calculators in Mathematical Education by Ray Hembree and Donald J. Dessart. (Published in Calculators in Mathematical Education):
'The resulting debate about calculator effects induced a flurry of research, one of the largest efforts for any topic in mathematics education (Suydam, 1982). Do calculators threaten basic skills? The answer consistently seemed to be no, provided those basics have been developed first in a calculator-free environment. (Suydam, 1979)'
(I haven't read the two papers by Suydam so I haven't quoted those.)
Hope this helps.

4. ### trinity0097New commenter

I think that children should use calculators from an early age, after all they a modern piece of equipment which they will use in some form for the majority of their life. I'm sure that having a calculator won't replace in any way mental maths/written methods, however for checking, or investigations they are great, e.g. you want to focus on solving written problems, so you let the children have a calculator to do the 'sums' so that they can focus on the problems not the numbers. Or they can check their work as they go so that they don't do loads wrong,
Basic calculators do not vary much in their function for the type of work that your daughter would be using it for - it's when they all have different scientific calculators that it becomes harder to manage!

5. ### PaulDGOccasional commenter

I couldn't agree more!

I almost cry when I mark KS3/4 work where the learner has worked out something "by hand", made an error and gone on to waste so much time not achieving anything (and getting disheartened) where if they'd actually had confidence in using a calculator, they could have used one and quickly got onto the real task in hand.

We don't generally do enough pen & paper methods these days for the kids to be a proficient as their grand and great-grandparents - and nor do we do enough with a calculator for them to be any good at using those either.

If a science class is getting kids to use calculators properly I salute them!

teaching children that checking your maths as you go is very important. If a calculator is part of this all well and good.
Then thye can start ot check their written methods for errors (if they have shown their working)

7. ### cyolba

And herein lies the problem. Kids are doing "Investigations" and "checking" their answers with a calculator before they are properly proficient in the basic pen and paper skills. Thereafter, whenever the computational skills are required, they will reach for the calculator to "check" their answers or because they get bogged down with arithmetioc and fail to see the purpose of why they are calculating.
If, instead, kids were taught mental and written methods until they were proficient and accurate at using them, there would be no need to rely on calculators, as the kids would know that they have the correct arithmetic done quickly and can then focus on the broader picture.
IMUO, calculators should be banned completely from Primary schools and really only introduced when kids start needing them (eg: when dealing with Pythagoras or Trig).

cyolba, properly olde skule

8. ### David GetlingSenior commenter

How will the teacher make sure it is used just for checking? When I set homework I always make the answers available, and tell students that checking and marking them is part of the homework. However, I expect to see working, which shows that the homework has indeed been done. I find it very difficult to imagine how, when a calculator is available at such an early age, it would be possible to check that students have indeed done the work without a calculator.

For older students I'm a very keen advocate of using calculators, and learning to use them well. But, for most, if not all primary years, I think it's essential that the work is done manually in order that students understand and become very comfortable with arithmetic operations.

A calculator is useless if you don't have a good grasp of maths in the first place. You end up with children writing down ridiculous answers because they don't have the basic understanding to see that theanswer couldn't possibly be right. There's no advantage in using them early. I am quite able to use one and they weren't invented until i was in my teens. It's hardly difficult.

Shouldn't the school be providing equipment like this if it's essential? I'd just say 'no'.

10. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

What with all this "checking" it makes you wonder how anyone managed any mathematics before electronic calculators.

11. ### FlippantFlyer

"And herein lies the problem. Kids are doing "Investigations" and "checking" their answers with a calculator before they are properly proficient in the basic pen and paper skills. Thereafter, whenever the computational skills are required, they will reach for the calculator to "check" their answers or because they get bogged down with arithmetioc and fail to see the purpose of why they are calculating.

If, instead, kids were taught mental and written methods until they were proficient and accurate at using them, there would be no need to rely on calculators, as the kids would know that they have the correct arithmetic done quickly and can then focus on the broader picture.

IMUO, calculators should be banned completely from Primary schools and really only introduced when kids start needing them (eg: when dealing with Pythagoras or Trig)."

Well said cyolba!

12. ### trinity0097New commenter

I use a technique in my KS2 classes called 'do it, check it, mark it' when they are doing routine practice of 4 rules work. They do a question, showing the working in their books, then check it on a calculator and then mark it, if it's wrong they try it again and/or ask for assistance. Means that they can't do a whole load of them wrong, teaches them how to enter things onto a calculator correctly, reduces my marking load as I just then have to comment on their work rather than mark each question, it also boosts their confidence as they get immediate reassurance they are doing it correctly or support if they are making mistakes. Doesn't mean I'm not having a big focus on written calculation skills and give them pages of 'sums' to do with a calculator alone.

13. ### 1 45

I would like to get rid of calculators in KS2. I do use them for calculator exercises but not for checking examples that are practice of written methods. If they need to chack an answer they come and see me. Sometimes pupils need to go away and have a go without constantly having everything checked.

14. ### loopyk8

Just in from parents night - having been directed to upper school to discuss appropriate use of calculators - I feel better, I was not happy that I bought the calculator but understand it will not be used freqently
Thanks for all the replies

15. ### bruce_home

Dear all
I'll try not to rant too strongly. I teach P3 in the Steiner school system and Standard Grade maths, and am lucky to have the flexibility to adopt a creative approach, within our curriculum, to the teaching of numeracy.
I think there is a fundamental question here: WHY teach maths?
Beyond the numeracy requirements of day to day life, there are profound neurological reasons to teach maths. It is an abstract language, skills in which are a necessity for abstract or technological thought later. It broadens the mind.
I'd love to stimulate a discussion here. We do not allow calculators until age 14, and believe strongly that the child's sense of number should be developed so that that can be used to check the answer provided by the calculator.
That means P2 - tables, operations, estimation, plenty of practice with manipulatives, lots of word questions. Develop that sense of number that will underpin later maths.
Use calculators then to generate a dependency, and reduce their sense of number.

Bruce

16. ### DMNew commenter

Would you like a bruce_home avatar?

17. ### bruce_home

Thanks, DM. That's really witty. Bruce