The role of calculators in the classroom is a perennial source of debate among policymakers and math educators.
That issue is receiving renewed attention from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Leaders of the influential professional organization are revising their policy statement on the most effective uses of those devices, according to President Cathy L. Seeley.
The NCTM’s current policy advocates the use of calculators in classrooms at all grade levels, as long as it is blended with basic math skills, such as the ability of students to make estimations on their own.
Yet that policy is often mischaracterized, Ms. Seeley said, to suggest that the NCTM believes students should rely on calculators at the expense of understanding basic math concepts. In an attempt to clarify its stance, the association will rework its position statement to reflect a “stronger emphasis on balance,” Ms. Seeley said, among “technology tools, paper-and-pencil tools, and mental tools.”
When used effectively, calculators can enhance student learning by reducing time spent on repetitive computation and leaving more time for a broader range of math lessons and problem-solving, officials at the Reston, Va.-based NCTM believe. “They really are an important tool,” said Ms. Seeley.