A calculator is a great tool that allows for the mathematical exploration and experimentation and thus enhances the students understanding of concepts. Before I go into the benefits of the use of calculators in education and how to efficiently use them I would like to, first, state the types of calculators available today.
We can classify calculators into two types. The fist type is a calculator that evaluates expressions. This type is used to replace the manual tedious paper and pencil arithmetic. The second type of calculator is the special functionality calculator for example the graphing calculator, the algebra calculator, the matrices calculator… etc. These calculators are used for exploration of concepts. Each type of calculator can fit in mathematics education in its unique way and needs the syllabuses to be specially written to incorporate it in education.
Recent studies show that calculators are evaluable tools for mathematics educations. Instead of the student spending his time in tedious arithmetic calculations he can spend his time in developing and understanding concepts. Many students in the past have been turned off mathematics because of the long tedious calculations and students who were efficient in these calculations were considered good at mathematics. Little attention was made to the dissolve of concepts. They hardly had anytime left to concentrate on concepts. Today with the use of calculators the students spend all their time understanding concepts and the logic behind mathematics. They can relate the concepts to real life application. The overall education experience became richer. This is why calculators are recommended for all education classes from kindergarten to college.
Some may argue that this way the student may become lazy. The reply to this question is consider you are giving a primary school student a problem that he has 100 dollars and went to the market and bought five items of one commodity for a certain price and three items of another commodity for another price and he paid the 100 dollars then what is the remainder that he will receive. Now what is the mathematical quest of this problem? Is the question here how to do arithmetic multiplication, addition, and then subtraction? Or is the question is that the student should know what is going to be multiplied by what and what is going to be added to what and at the end what is going to be subtracted from what? Of coarse the mathematics of this problem is the procedure he is going to do to find the remainder and not the arithmetic process itself. In the past overwhelming the student with the arithmetic operations made many students miss the idea and the concept behind the problem. Some others did not miss the concept but were turned off altogether from mathematics because of the arithmetic operations.
Here I have to emphasize that it is true that calculators are good for education but still one must know how to make them fit nicely in the education process. Students need to know the arithmetic hand calculations. They must study how to do that manually. When the prime concern of the mathematics problem is how to do the arithmetic students should only use the calculator to check for the answer i.e. to see if it matches his hand calculation.
So the rule for using calculators is that the teacher should check the point of the mathematics problem and the concept it is teaching. If the calculator is doing a lower level job than the concept behind the mathematics exercise than it is fine. However, if the calculator is doing the intended job of the exercise then it should be used only to check the correct answer.
In addition, education books should write examples that use calculators to investigate concepts and teachers should lead students in classrooms to show them how to use these examples with calculators to dissolve concepts.