The article asserts that students benefit greatly from the use of calculators at the elementary school level. The research also explains that calculator use should be used in addition to traditional techniques from problem solving.
McAuliffe (2004) reiterates the aforementioned belief that the use of calculators at the elementary school level can be quite beneficial. The authors asserts that the majority of research has found that there are not any harmful effects that occur as a result of early calculator use. The author explains that the use of calculators simply serves as an enhancement to elementary school mathematics curriculum, when they are properly used. The author insists that this enhancement can be seen in the fact that students have more time to solve problems on a conceptual level. McAuliffe (2004) expounds upon this idea stating
"a simple four-function calculator will allow students to use whatever operation is appropriate in a problem, regardless of whether they are confident of their own skill at carrying out that operation." Here, the students experience a computational advantage and become more secure in their abilities. Computation is important specifically because it is necessary to solve many mathematical problems. The particular method used, however, whether it involves mental math, paper and pencil, or a calculator, is just one part of the computation process (McAuliffe
2004, 3) ."
The author goes on to explain that the other aspect of the computational process necessitates that students fully and have the capacity to determine the right numbers to use while completing computations. The author explains that really understanding mathematics requires proficiency in using different strategies to solve mathematic problems. As such the use of calculators permits students to think of mathematics in more abstract terms. That is "It allows children to solve problems whose solutions are within theoretical, but not computational, grasp (McAuliffe 2004, 3)."
Discovery is also seen as another benefit associated with the use of calculators in the classroom. In many cases students are introduced to aspects of mathematics that they never knew before. For instance, an article entitled "Clearing up the Confusion over Calculator Use in Grades K-5" explains that in the classroom setting some elementary students have discovered such things as negative numbers. The author explains.
"One student entered 6-8 and was curious about the displayed result, which was -2. The teacher used the opportunity to model negative numbers by extending the number line to .the left of 0 ("Clearing up the Confusion over Calculator Use in Grades K-5)." In this instance, the teacher was able to introduce students to a totally new concept. This concept would not have been discovered without the presence of a calculator.
There are also arguments for the use of calculators for very young students. This argument asserts that young students benefit greatly from the use of calculators because it allows them to recognize numbers in a new way. According to de Walle (2003) in small children "The calculator is a good instructional tool for numeral recognition. In addition to helping children with numerals, early activities can help develop familiarity with the calculator so that more complex activities are possible (de Walle 2003, 3) ." This particular author contends that calculators are beneficial to small children when they are beginning to learn about numbers and numerical recognition.
Overall the pros of using calculators in elementary school are inclusive of a knowledge of calculator usage, increased ability to solve mathematics problems, discovery, higher levels of abstract reasoning, and recognition of numbers. The research indicates that elementary school students that use calculators in combination with traditional forms of math instruction have higher levels of proficiency in math than those that rely on traditional instruction alone. The overall consensus seems to be that the use of calculators is beneficial when properly implemented in the elementary school curriculum.
In addition to those that advocate or oppose the use of calculators in elementary school, there are also those that believe that calculators should only be used in certain elementary school grades. That is they believe in the use of calculators in elementary school but they disagree that children as young as kindergartners should be allowed to use calculators.
These individuals believe that students should learn the fundamental facts of math before they are allowed to use calculators. In treating the use of calculators in elementary school in this manner, there is exposure to calculators but students also understand the processes behind mathematical computation. As it relates to this particular argument it is asserted that the emphasis should be on traditional practices as it pertains to mathematics education. However, once a fundamental understanding of numbers and basic mathematical processes are developed calculators can and should be introduced (Varol F. & Farran, 2007). A study conducted by Vanderbilt university found that "it is important children first learn how to calculate answers on their own, but after that initial phase, using calculators is a fine thing to do, even for basic multiplication facts (Vanderbilt University)." The study also found that students; fundamental understanding of mathematics was the key indicator in determining whether or not they were harmed or hurt by the use of calculators in mathematics. This particular study insists that the use of calculators is only harmful if the student has knot established how to find answers without the use of a calculator. That is the calculator simply enhances understanding, it is not responsible for gaining the understanding.
This particular stance is rather popular among parents and also many educators. One of the major problems with elementary school students and students at all levels is reliance upon technology. There is nothing wrong with the technology itself, in fact the technology can be quite beneficial, however there has to be a foundation present if the technology is to present any type of advantage. Teachers and parents alike seem to embrace this belief and in many school districts this is the approach that has been embraced.
The purpose of this discussion was to examine the various sentiments that exist as it pertains to the use of calculators in elementary school. The research found that the use of calculators at the elementary school level is an extremely controversial issue. There are those that support the use of calculators in elementary schools and those that oppose their use. On the one hand students can come to depend to much on calculators. On the other hand calculators can assist students in becoming more proficient math students. There is plenty of research to support both arguments.
The research specifically focused on the pros and cons of using calculators in elementary school. The cons of calculator use include dependency, the lack of mastery of fundamental arithmetic skills, inappropriate use of calculators and the effect of false progress. The most significant of these problems seems to be the lack of mastery of fundamental skills. The evidence seems to suggest that many students begin to depend on calculators to solve math problems and as such they do not master fundamental math skills. The research asserts that this leads to poor test scores and can have a negative impact on students as it pertains to their academic careers.
In addition to the cons of calculator use in elementary school we also examined the pros of the practice. The research suggest that calculator use at the elementary school level includes a knowledge of calculator usage, increased ability to solve mathematics problems, discovery, higher levels of abstract reasoning, and recognition of numbers. The most important of these advantages seems to be an increased ability to solve mathematics problems. The research indicates that calculator use increases student understanding of mathematics.