Vol. 33, Issue 01

Calculator Use With Common-Core Exams

Although calculators have not figured prominently in discussions of the common-core math standards, it's likely the complementary tests will result in far greater uniformity in their use on state exams across states. And the rules emerging from the two state testing consortia are sure to influence regular classroom use of calculators, experts say.

National Survey Offers a Glimpse of Calculator Use, Access in Classrooms

Only a small share of elementary students use calculators at least once a week for math class, but both access and use steadily rise as students move to the middle and high school levels, according to survey data collected from teachers in 2012.

  • Four Function
  • Scientific
  • Graphing

Source: Horizon Research Inc.

Comparing Test Consortia's Plans With Other Major Assessments

The PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing consortia have written policies for the online calculators to be used on their common-core exams. Although PARCC's policy is final, the one for Smarter Balanced is still in draft form, subject to approval by member states. Here's a closer look at those policies and how they compare with the approaches used on other national and internationl assessments.

Not AllowedFour FunctionScientificGraphing
PARCC*GRADE 3-5GRADE 6-7GRADE 8HIGH SCHOOL
SMARTER BALANCED*GRADE 3-5GRADE 6GRADE 7-8HIGH SCHOOL
NAEP* GRADE 4GRADE 8 and 12
TIMSSGRADE 4GRADE 8
PISANo restrictions, but must be consistent with policy of participating nation.
SATA wide variety of calculators are permitted.

*Calculator "on" and "off" sections at grades 6 and up. For high school, PARCC allows a calculator similar to Texas Instruments TI-84. Smarter Balanced allows calculator with scientific, regression, and graphing capabilities. Only some NAEP math questions allow calculators.

Source: Education Week

What's On, What's Off? Can You Tell?

The online-calculator policies emerging from both PARCC and Smarter Balanced do not allow most students to use a calculator on the exams at grades 3-5. At grades 6 and above, they plan to have calculator "on" and "off" sections. See if you think these practice items from the Smarter Balanced consortium permit a calculator. (PARCC also has practice items for the public to access.)

Reporting & Analysis: Erik W. Robelen | Visualization & Design: Chienyi Cheri Hung
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