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Using Calculators in Math Courses Doesn't Add Up, Some Chiefs Say

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Indianapolis--The most protracted debate at this year's meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers occurred over an unlikely topic--the idea of allowing students to use calculators in mathematics courses.

The issue was raised at the gathering because the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics had asked the chiefs to endorse its 1986 position statement that all students be allowed to use the devices during classes and related examinations.

Several school chiefs said they had deep reservations about the concept.

H. Dean Evans of Indiana, for example, suggested that schools ought to do a better job on math and memory drills. West Virginia's superintendent, Thomas McNeel, suggested that students needed to master basic computational skills before being allowed to use calculators.

The other side of the argument was championed by Ruth E. Ran4dall of Minnesota, who noted that math experts and teachers "believe this to be an acceptable way to bring up our children in mathematics."

After discussing several proposed position statements, the chiefs approved one offered by Charlie G. Williams of South Carolina. It backs the nctm policy but adds that calculators "should not diminish the importance of gaining computational skills."


The chiefs also said they were prepared to assist President-elect George Bush in his pledge to become "the education president" and that more action and less "school bashing" was needed from the White House.

Undersecretary of Education Linus Wright, who took time off from a hunting trip in his native Texas in order to accept the chiefs' invitation to meet with them, assured them Mr. Bush was sincere.

Mr. Wright told the group that "it's obvious President-elect Bush will give more emphasis to education than President Reagan."

Ted Sanders of Illinois, the council's new president, said he "felt good" about working with Mr. Bush, adding: "I personally, and our council, will do everything we can to help" Mr. Bush.

Harold Raynolds Jr. of Massachusetts--the home state of Mr. Bush's rival, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis--predicted that the President-elect would be more responsive to educators' needs than Mr. Reagan has been.

"We'll see what happens," he said. "In the previous eight years, there was no dialogue, only pronouncements."

"The best defense this country has is education," said Mr. McNeel of West Virginia. "The President and Secretary of Education need to make a commitment in dollars as well as rhetoric."


The state chiefs also voted to raise their group's revenue from membership fees from $500,000 to $1 million annually over the next four years. The fees currently range from $2,250 to $14,550, depending on the member state's elementary and secondary education budget.

Council officials noted that the organization was forced to tap into its reserve accounts to maintain its budget this year.

Verne Duncan of Oregon, the ccsso's outgoing president, urged members to support the increase, saying it was needed to en4sure that the group maintains its influence nationally.

"Read my lips," he quipped. "This is one president proposing a tax increase."

Mr. Sanders, who replaced Mr. Duncan as the council leader, also outlined the group's agenda for the coming year.

As president, he said, he plans to emphasize the role of families in education, children at risk of school failure, improving the quality of the teaching force, and structural changes within schools to assure effective learning.

Mr. Sanders referred to his program as "a triad deployed toward families, teachers, and students."

Mr. Sanders' presentation was the final item on the group's agenda. In a reference to widespread complaints about the lack of substance in this year's Presidential campaign, he joked: "Both President-elect Bush and President-elect Sanders were able to delay the presentation of their agendas until after the election."--nm

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