Common Core will limit calculator use

New tests linked to Common Core standards will limit the use of calculators on math tests, according to the Hechinger Report. It’s likely calculators will be banned for tests in grades 3 to 5. At sixth grade and above, calculators could be used in some sections, but not in others.

Those rules “are sure to influence regular classroom use of calculators, from the elementary ban to the ways increasingly sophisticated calculator use is assumed at the secondary level.”

“The old saw is, teach to the test, and that’s the reality,” said W. Gary Martin, a professor of math education at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. “If [students] can’t use a calculator on the test, it’s effectively banished from the classroom.”

On the other hand, Mr. Martin and others praised the PARCC guidelines for high school, which call for the use of an online graphing calculator with comparable functionality to a Texas Instruments TI-84, a popular calculator in high schools.

Students often rely too heavily on calculators, said Brad Findell, the associate director of math-teacher-education programs at Ohio State University. The calculator “on” and “off” sections at grades 6 and above “represents a reasonable middle ground that potentially . . .  can bring us to a better place where students end up being thoughtful,” he added.

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  1. What the **** does a kid who is in grades 3 to 5 need a
    calculator for in the first place? Any parent who wants
    their kid to actually LEARN math should BAN the use
    of that device until at least algebra I.

    I didn’t get my first scientific calculator (the venerable TI-55)
    until I was in the 10th grade, and we didn’t get to use them
    until at least algebra II/trig, though you still had to actually
    do the math back then…GACK!

    • I used to teach high school Math, and calculators were not even to be seen until PreCalculus. Not even in Algebra II.

      A sick corollary to your post: I’ve seen Elementary and Middle School kids (like friends of mine’s kids) who had TI-82s and TI-85s on their school supplies list. How insane is that??

  2. I recently tutored a 6th-grader at an after-school program. He was working on ratios, so he had to multiply several numbers by the same thing (2 red and 3 green is 5 total, so if you have 10 or 15 total, how many red or green do you have?). I found that he couldn’t multiply, even by 2, 5, or 10.

    The coordinator said that the kids aren’t allowed to use calculators, but they can use their daily agenda, which has a multiplication table grid in it. She also said that, of the 4 other kids who had come in that week with the same worksheet, only one of them could multiply. Most of them didn’t even seem to know that they could add repeatedly or skip count to get the right answer. I don’t know what they’ve been taught (neither memorization or conceptual understanding, apparently), and they weren’t allowed to use the calculator, but apparently they’re still dependent on something for arithmetic.

    Teaching to a test that didn’t allow aids would be a huge help to these kids….or, as a business relative said after hearing about this, ‘Everybody uses math – my sales people need to be able to estimate cost for people buying X units with Y features…and they can’t walk around carrying a math grid!’…and don’t get me started on the medical-related students who apparently don’t plan to use math while calculating doses.

  3. A society lives or dies by its overall Math skills. American society is obviously dying. Will our grandkids be angry with us when the BRIC owns the U.S. and tells us what to do every day?

  4. > A society lives or dies by its overall Math skills.

    Yes it does. At the high end, these skills can be concentrated in an elite class of professionals, at least to some degree (everyone doesn’t need to know calculus, although it would certainly help if they did). But once the hoi polloi can’t do the simple things, like basic arithmetic (make change) or percentages (evaluate sale pricing) or compound interest (mortgages), they can no longer be responsible citizens and you are screwed.

    I’ve personally seen the lack of all of these in recent high school graduates, so I think we’re well on the way to being completely screwed. I can’t even think of a strategy that would turn things around…

  5. I wish we could be clear that these ideas come from the test makers NOT the common core itself. Too often the standards are attacked when it is the corporate players and test makers who are making it ugly.