In this installment of Zeroing in on Curriculum and Instruction, I’d like to share an article with you entitled “Should Kids Use a Calculator for Math?” which extols the many benefits of allowing kids to solve math problems without the aid of calculators.

At an education conference in Portugal, a parent asked me, “At what age should a child be allowed to use a calculator?” I replied, “Students should be allowed to use calculators once they have shown that they don’t need them. This requirement allows students to use a calculator for efficiency, not as a substitute for learning basic computational skills.” *

Encouraging young learners to use calculators before they develop adequate mathematical foundations very often leads to serious gaps in their learning and their failure to build number sense and problem solving skills.

As mentioned in the Education Training Manual:

Problem solving skills, the centerpiece of modern mathematics education, have their roots in the NUMBER SENSE that comes from the study of traditional arithmetic.

Calculators and computers have taken much of the drudgery out of math, but they cannot replace the number sense that is learned in the process of mastering many of the fundamental concepts, facts, and skills of basic arithmetic.

NUMBER SENSE is an integral component of everyone’s “mathematical toolkit.” It complements and supplements all aspects of mathematics education.

I encourage you to print this article out and keep it in your waiting areas for parents to read, as well as share it with Instructors as a discussion point during your next staff meeting. Thank you to center owner Barry Fausnaugh of Mathnasium of Bethesda, MD for calling my attention to this piece.

* (At this point, an onlooker remarked, “Larry’s words should be enshrined in Heaven!”)