Education A National Roundup

Virginia Student’s Discovery Prompts Recall of Calculators

By Bess Keller — June 14, 2005 | Corrected: February 22, 2019 1 min read

Corrected: This story should have said that Texas Instruments already had replaced almost all of the 149,000 calculators in Virginia schools that were found to be able to convert fractions to decimals with the press of two keys.

Texas Instruments is replacing thousands of calculators in Virginia schools after a 6th grader figured out that pressing two keys gave answers to problems state education officials say students should be able to do on their own.

The Dallas-based company had modified the standard version of the calculator at the behest of the Virginia education department so that the conversion of fractions to decimals was not a visible function. The calculators, therefore, were not supposed to give a leg up to students facing conversion problems on state tests.

But Dakota Brown, 12, a student at Carver Middle School in the Chesterfield County school district near Richmond, found an easy—if unmarked—way to do the conversions on the approved version of the TI-30 XASE VA.

Officials were not sure last week how many of the calculators would be replaced with ones that cannot perform the function, but it could be up to 160,000.