A West Virginia state legislator, apparently frustrated by the inability of retail clerks to make correct change, has proposed a radical solution: ban calculators in the state’s schools from kindergarten to eighth grade.
This is a bit like noticing that people can’t swim and banning life jackets. That said, I’m deeply sympathetic to the notion that de-emphasizing automatic grasp of math facts and ease with basic calculations does more harm than good. “It’s like giving them a crutch. I don’t like using that term, but that’s essentially what it is,” state delegate Ray Canterbury tells the Charleston Daily Mail. “They really don’t learn math the way they once did. A lot of things just need to be learned by practice and rote memorization,” he added.
At Teacher in a Strange Land, now in its new home at Teacher Magazine, Nancy Flanagan rolls her eyes. “I think we should require kids to memorize their times tables, too. Who doesn’t? I also think that there’s no point in not using cheap, ubiquitous technologies to solve diverse mathematical problems encountered in daily life.”
“I think in this age of technology that it’s wrong not to teach children how to use calculators in an appropriate way,” says House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, echoing Flanagan. ”They should not be used to avoid learning how to do basic calculations, but they certainly should be used as tools for learning.”
“It seems like everywhere I go, people, particularly young people, can’t even make change,” he said.
So Canterbury, a University of Chicago graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, decided to do something about that and drafted House Bill 3235.