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Using Calculators to Deepen Students’ Engagement With Math

Math Calculator

Whether we love them or hate them, calculators are right here to stay—long gone are the times whilst we ought to inform college students, “You won’t usually have a calculator.” We ought to reconsider what way to train children a way to do primary math withinside the calculator age.

I’ve spent years identifying a way to contain math calculator into my coaching in methods that train my center college students essential capabilities like variety sense, estimation, and hassle-solving. Through trial and error, I actually have created and taught classes that combine calculators as a critical device in growing college students’ mathematical curiosity, conceptual expertise, and procedural fluency. Two of my preferred classes cowl what many do not forget primary center college concepts: possibilities and fraction operations.


In this lesson, I usually start via way of means of telling college students that I’m going to provide them numerous percent troubles in addition to the answers. The first aspect college students surprise is why I could deliver them the answers. Aren’t they alleged to parent the ones out?

Not in this case, I inform them: The purpose isn’t to get the solution, however, to parent out how the solution became gotten. The first hassle we address is quite simple: What is 50% of 24? The college students can generally shout out “12!” earlier than I end writing the hassle at the board.

Excellent!” I respond. “Now, how ought to you parent that out on a  math calculator?”

At that moment, college students clutch a primary four-feature calculator. I stroll around and feature college students display their methods, and I inform them that dividing 24 via way of means of 2 isn’t what I wanted.

“But 50% is half,” they protest. “So you divide via way of means of 2.”

“Certainly,” I say. “But we’re now no longer usually going to have something as exceptional as 50%, so we ought to discover an exceptional way.”

Exasperated, my college students try and parent out what I want. After allowing them to have interaction inefficient struggle, I manual them towards the concept that we will use the numbers 50 and 24 to attain 12. Soon, they’re getting thoughts like multiplying the numbers, ensuing in 1,200.

“That’s a type of like 12,” a person will say. “But I ought to dispose of those zeroes.”

My college students begin identifying that to attain the solution, we will multiply the percentage via way of means of the entire variety after which divide via way of means of one hundred. Some college students even recommend which you simply flip one of the numbers right into a decimal earlier than multiplying (50 instances zero.24 or zero.50 instances 24). Others say which you placed a decimal factor into each number, however best one digit in each (five. zero instances 2.four). Some propose the usage of the % button at the math calculator, which could additionally flip their variety at the display screen right into a decimal. I then have college students offer conjectures approximately why all of those techniques paintings and what they have got in common.

Soon, my college students are carrying out a mathematical dialogue approximately relationships among decimals and percents, how the variety one hundred is inherent to all the calculations, and the way 50%, zero.50, and ½ are all of the identical aspects.

I keep the lesson with greater complex troubles. Trying to resolve something like 17.35% of 8.four the usage of paper and pencil is overwhelming—however, with calculators, my college students technique even reputedly horrifying troubles like this with confidence, armed with the understanding that the relationships stay steady no matter the complexity of the numbers. Using thoughts like percentage-decimal equivalence—in addition to green algorithms like “% × n ÷ one hundred”—my college students develop, with the assist of calculators, conceptual expertise, and procedural fluency.

FRACTION OPERATIONS with math calculator

Extending my college students’ newfound expertise of rational variety equivalence, I use math calculators to train them in multiplication and department with fractions and decimals. As with the share troubles, I start via way of means of displaying college students recognized equal fractions and decimals, consisting of ½ = zero. five and ¾ = zero.75. Students discover a way to use the numerator and denominator to generate the decimal forms. Eventually, they find out the department algorithm (numerator ÷ denominator). Once they have got this technique mastered, the actual amusement begins.

I gift a multiplication hassle: ½ × ½. I ask college students to look if they could use their conversion approach to simplify this hassle. After a few efficient struggle, college students arrive at zero.25, which they generally apprehend as identical to ¼. Soon, they’re carrying out a dialogue approximately how they might have simply accelerated the denominators without all that decimal stuff.

“But what approximately the numerators?” I ask. Well, perhaps additionally they multiply, however my college students aren’t sure. That’s whilst we bust out every other hassle: ¾ × ⅖. The college students first conjecture that they multiply the numerators and denominators, ensuing in 6/20.

“But how are we able to be sure?” I ask. Well, what if we transformed our solution right into a decimal? Eventually, the scholars are capable of confirming that 6/20 is the solution, for the reason that ¾ × ⅖ = zero.75 × zero.four, which ends up in zero.three, and 6 ÷ 20 = zero.three.

Throughout the lesson, I deliver college students exceptional troubles, which include ones with mistaken fractions and combined numbers, and all in their paintings may be established the usage of the calculators; they not want me to constantly test their paintings, which ends up in more independence in hassle-solving.

The largest marvel I encountered became how without difficulty college students have been capable of paintings with repeating decimals. While it took a while or even greater efficient struggle, my college students have been tackling multiplication and department troubles with all forms of fractions that had repeating patterns. They commenced apprehending that typing in a group of 3s to symbolize zero. three were given them quite near the real solution for ⅓ ÷ ¼ (zero.3333333 ÷ zero.25 = 1.3333332, a totally near approximation of the real solution of 1⅓). At no time in my math training did I discover ways to perform with repeating decimals as expertly as my college students have been doing throughout the rational variety unit, way to their use of calculators.

It takes a whole lot of intentionality and making plans in addition to rethinking what we consider is essential for college students to examine in math, however, while you release the electricity of math calculator, you deliver college students get entry to arithmetic in entire new methods. What constitutes primary math has to adapt to our converting world. Our college students will spend their lives residing withinside the twenty-first century, and calculators may be the important thing to giving them real twenty-first-century training with twenty-first-century math basics.

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