What is the significance of using calculators in math?


Arpita Das

A picture of my math homework with the parametric functions included.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of the word math is ‘numbers.’ But, the first object that comes to mind is a calculator. Ever since the 6th grade, I have always used a calculator when it came to solving problems, as well as checking them on both tests and quizzes. 

Unfortunately, no one told me that in high school, you are required to do some parts of math without a calculator. I did not realize this until I took my second test in Algebra II my sophomore year. This information hit me like a wall of bricks, but because math was always my favorite subject, it made me start to question my ability of how well I would be able to perform in the subject. 

I am currently taking Pre-Calculus as a junior, but one thing my teacher in Algebra II used to say was that when using a calculator, it should only be used to check your answer rather than use it to get to the answer. Although I do agree with this statement, to what extent does not having access to a calculator start to hurt rather than help us in our math curriculum? 

Because math was always my favorite subject, it made me start to question my ability at how well I would be able to perform in the subject. 

From Algebra II to any higher level math course, there will continue to be non-calculator portions of the course. For an average student, that usually takes up half of their high school career. Although it’s important that a student knows how to solve a problem mentally with no external help, I see more benefits in utilizing a calculator in our math courses. 

For example, we can not only use it to check our answers but also to see where we went wrong and correct our mistakes. By using the calculator, we are able to learn more concepts which as a result helps us learn and solve problems more efficiently. 

In Pre-Calculus, we learned how to graph a function by using the parametric feature on our calculator. The only difference between the regular function and parametric function was that in place of the variable y was the variable x and in place of the variable x was the value T. 

Obviously, we were also taught how to create a chart by hand, but by using the calculator, not only is it quicker, but it also ensures us that we will get the right answer by solving it this way. 

Even though this may mean that a student may depend on the calculator more if they are taught how to use it in the correct way, it will not only be more beneficial in solving the problem but also increase their chances of getting the problem right. 

It is a goal that I think everyone wants to reach in the end.