We Are On the Way to Being Ruled by Machines

Nowadays, graphing calculators have become a part of every student’s arsenal in the academic community.

“I use [my calculator] for everything,” junior Josh Huang said. “It’s like my best friend.”

While the prospect of entrusting every homework assignment and test to a mechanical mentor who knows all the answers is appealing, there will eventually be a day in which students must depend on their own intellect to survive. This is not to say that students should learn to calculate 389 x 536 mentally, but excessive TI use fills the mind with a false sense of security that will inevitably vanish when the calculator runs out of battery power.

Admittedly, there are some mathematics problems that are too tedious to solve without the help of a machine. However, it is awkward when AP Calculus students haveto reach for their calculators given 85/5, when all they really need to do is simplify.

AP Calculus teacher Matthew Chaffee said that calculators are needed but overused and should not be relied on in areas where a student’s mathematics skills are still weak.

“[Students] need to have a good number sense first,” Chaffee said. “If [students] can’t multiply 9×8, [they] shouldn’t be using a calculator to do that.”

Excessive use of calculators attack the heart of the mathematical reasoning taught to students in earlier grades, skills that are necessary not only to pass high school mathematics, but also further on in life when graphing calculators become a thing of the past.

“Variables are good learning tools,” senior Sam Vesuna said. “The point of learning simple models is to apply them elsewhere.”

Whether it is at the supermarket keeping an eye on a careless cashier or at home playing a friendly game of Monopoly, students must make calculations every day, and calculators will not always be there to lend a hand.

It would therefore be beneficial for students to more fully embrace their mental addition, subtraction, multiplication and division skills, instead of blindly relying on their TI-84.

Calculators inhibit true learning of mathematical concepts that are fundamentally more important than a correct answer on any homework assignment.

According to former AP Calculus AB/BC teacher Steven Cochran, his students last year struggle mainly with non-calculator questions.

“Students [struggled] to perform work without a calculator because of the accessibility of technology … and the lack of discipline of some students,” Cochran said.