Why Using Different Calculators in the Classroom Doesn't Add Up
Not all calculators are created equal. Button layouts, menus and functionality all vary from device to device, and that can cause problems in the classroom.
If students use different calculators, the teacher's job is made more difficult, and the learning process will vary across the class. Some students will feel completely on top of their work, while others will get that horrible, sinking feeling.
Picture the scene: a teacher illustrates an equation on their whiteboard and reveals how to perform it on a calculator. Only, the instructions don't match up with every calculator in the class. That leaves some students feeling lost, and the teacher tries to figure out the instructions for each calculator.
Doesn't sound like much fun, does it? Thankfully, ensuring that all students have access to the same calculator solves this problem.
Here's why using different calculators in the classroom doesn't add up.
What problems do teachers experience with mixed calculators?
Let's start with arguably the biggest benefit of students using the same calculator.
Teachers have enough on their plates without having to get their heads around the intricacies of different calculators; with so little time available for each lesson, every minute matters.
It's why 43% of GCSE teachers admit experiencing difficulties when teaching in classes of mixed calculators. While most devices can reach the same conclusion, the method for getting there can vary significantly between models.
Imagine an IT teacher whose students have laptops running different operating systems; they wouldn't give a single set of instructions. It's the same with calculators - if each device is different, the teacher will spend more time figuring out each device's intricacies than teaching.
A level playing field
Home learning has placed a renewed focus on efficiency within the classroom (virtual or otherwise).
If students use different calculators, some will have access to devices that match up perfectly with the teacher's instructions, while other students are scratching their heads. Worse still, some calculators may not even offer the functionality required to reach the result. When learning from home this puts students at a significant disadvantage.
Levelling the playing field only happens if every student has access to the same calculator, making learning fair and accessible for all. It reduces the number of questions teachers have to deal with relating to basic calculator functionality (to which they may not know the answers).
What's missing from alternative calculators?
Research shows that 88% of teachers recommend Casio scientific calculators. The reason is simple - alternative calculators often miss key functionality.
It leaves students with many challenges, including:
- the inability to enter recurring decimals;
- no access to equivalent ratios; and
- the inability to calculate tables of values for graphs.
If the student next to you can perform those functions, but your calculator leaves you dazed and confused, that's not a particularly pleasant feeling.
What's more, alternative calculators often suffer from low build quality and older display technology. It makes them a pain to use and more likely to break after sustained use.
Now, more than ever, technology needs to work
We've already revealed how teachers are overcoming technology during the pandemic. From adapting to blended learning to using emulation software, classroom technology has never played a more critical role.
Calculators sit at the heart of every maths lesson. They shouldn't frustrate, confuse or leave students feeling like they're falling behind. Teachers need to provide instructions that they know every student can follow, no matter what device they have to hand.
A calculator seems like a simple purchase - and it really is, but with more students learning from home than ever before, now is the time to ensure they're all tapping on the same model.