Math Education Concepts

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Calculators not Allowed


Students spend the last 6 years of middle and high school relying on a calculator to help them complete and solve math problems.  They enroll in their first college math course and the first announcement the professor makes is “calculators are not allowed.”

 The instant reaction is usually “how can you do math without a calculator?”  The better question is “how did you learn math with a calculator?”  Do most students truly understand the concepts needed to be successful in a college level math course?  Are they able to complete a full set of math problems without a calculator?  Students should not wait until they take a seat in their first college math class to decide they will no longer rely on a calculator for math; it’s too late.


Author: Math Education Concepts

I am a Co-founder of and Program Coordinator for Math Corps Philadelphia, a combined academic enrichment and mentoring program. I am the author of "Teacher Training Manual: Designed for Secondary Mathematics Teachers of African American Urban Students." I hold a Master of Education degree in Secondary Mathematics and have several years of experience teaching secondary and post-secondary mathematics.

11 thoughts on “Calculators not Allowed

  1. This is very interesting and informative. Please
    keep up the good work!


  2. No Calculators Allowed Rules took me by complete surprise in college too….and this was back in 2003! It’s great that you bring this topic up… From the students perspective, it’s not fair to expect such standards, especially if they were always taught a subject with the comfort of using with a certain tool—calculators. (sarcasm)

    In college, standards are naturally above what is expected in both middle school and highschool. Perhaps it’s a great life lesson as well. Nonetheless, instructors should knowingly equip students with lessons using calculators and without.


  3. In the beginning of 11th grade my math teacher also said, “calculators are not allowed.” I hated him then, but now I love him. He made me realize that you actually do not need a calculator.


  4. I think that calculators should only be allowed during the second half of the semester, after the student has already proven that they can perform the math concepts without one. Then once they have shown that they’ve mastered the skill, maybe they can use the calculator only as a means to check their work quicker. I allowing the student to use a calculator to teach a concept is only hindering their ability to depend on their brain to solve the equation.


  5. Yeah, that’s right, I remember when calcualators cost 200 dollars. A luxury invention. But what I remember most was the suave one achieved calculating in their head when trying to swoon a girl. And the fun we had figuring short cuts to multiplying. Even more, it was exercise, like jogging, did something for the fitness of me, jostling numbers in my head, vitamins for the brain. AND research is going old school validating head math IS exercise cause it grows the brain and re-wires it. Do a bonus thang. Play with fractions in your head, jogging along west river drive, with your mate, stop by a lovers lane. Do they even have those anymore. Get some grey/gray matter, yawl. calculate by candle light.


  6. Pingback: Preparing for Calculus « Math Education Concepts

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