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Calculators: the first sign of alien invasion

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By John Pawlak

Quick, what’s 44 percent of 25? Most adults know how to do this, but would have trouble doing it in their head.
But ask them to find 25 percent of 44.
That’s a horse of a different math!
Virtually every adult knows that 25 percent is 1/4 and so 25 percent of 44 is 11. Percentage is simply a multiplicative factor, meaning you divide by 100. So 44 percent of 25 is the same thing as 25 percent of 44, right?
Ask the same question to a student in middle school, or high school, or even college. It’s a good bet that they won’t know the answer and the only way they can solve it is to pull out a calculator and start punching numbers.
And if you did try explaining that they could simply take 25 percent of 44, it’s likely that they would push those buttons to figure that one out, too.
Our children are carrying these portable black holes that are literally sucking intelligence out of their skulls.
I’m beginning to think that it’s a conspiracy, a plot to dumb down our entire world! Those electronic know-it-alls are slowly turning our nation’s youth into know-it-nothings. Instead of developing sharp minds, kids are honing their dull fingertips.
Now, it’s totally reasonable to use a calculator to find the answer to a problem like 368 times 862. But watch all the calculator apps helping people figure out a 15 percent tip. Tell a student to simply take 10 percent, then
add half as much again, and out will come the calculator to compute 10 percent.
So what’s the problem? I know for a fact that elementary school students can multiply with no difficulty, and yet by the time they get to high school, many act as if they never learned it.
There’s only one possible answer. It’s an alien invasion.
Yes, years ago, an alien race intent on taking over our planet gave us calculators and then left. They figured that after two or three generations, the entire planet will regress to Pleistocene Age math, our schools reduced to handing out the highest degrees to those few people with the nimblest fingers.
We’ll be ripe for an invasion, and when they attack, we won’t even have the ability to count the casualties.
Are calculators really the demonic circuits of the universe? One study at Johns Hopkins University found a strong correlation between calculator usage in earlier grades and poorer performance in calculus.
Students in most countries scoring highest in international math competitions do not use calculators as part of mathematics instruction before middle school.
OK, for anyone who does understand math, they also understand that correlation is not causation.
And there are studies that counter these negative points. Many people think that removing the need for tedious number crunching allows students to devote more time to mastering complex concepts.
Others argue that technology makes for a better student by enhancing cognitive
development.
To all that I say: bull-dunky! (That’s a technical math term inferring a discontinuity in logical thought processes.)
Technology is an enabling tool, but it’s not a magic pill. Buying a $400 hammer
doesn’t make you a better carpenter. The people who split the atom, the
people who sent men to the moon, the people who built jet engines,
invented lasers, broke the DNA code — even those who built the first
computers — learned math without the aid of a calculator.
What would Euclid or Newton or Archimedes have accomplished with a TI-89? Most likely, they would have ended up never getting past eighth grade math.
Here’s my stance: We should outlaw the use of calculators in all elementary and middle schools.
When a student goes to high school, she or he should know how to add fractions, how to compute percentages, how to do long division, how to multiply decimals, how to subtract a negative number, and most definitely how to divide most any number by 2 without looking like they’re having a root canal.
Those who argue that calculators stimulate the educational environment don’t seem to actually be in the educational environment.
My guess is that they own stock in Texas Instruments.