Math Educators

How would you answer this question: Why do I need to learn how to do math when I have calculators and technology that will do the math for me?

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Math is not simple calculations - you are correct there are calculators and technology that will do that for us. However, mathematics promotes critical thinking - which is the basis of successful problem solving. Sometimes problems need to be solved that cannot be put into a calculator. All of our current mathematical knowledge and scientific advances can from critical thinkers - people who saw a problem and asked “why”. A calculator can only be programmed with the knowledge we currently have. If we are not creating thinkers, our growth will stop. In school systems, we cannot teach career specific math - nurse math, bank math, medical math, retail math, etc. Our classes (and people in general) have different goals, interests, and abilities. What we can teach is how to be a problem solver and how to make connections between things you know and things you want to know. Hopefully, you can learn many life lessons through math - it’s okay to make a guess, be wrong, and refine your guess. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, and we are always capable of more than we think we are.

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I tell my students - the calculator doesn't always have the correct answer because there is something known as operator error.

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Experience shows that even with the technology, students cannot solve the problems without knowing how to do them. They have to know how to interpret the problem, mathematize it, get the technical solution, and interpret that into a viable solution.

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Math is the language of that technology you worship so much. If you can't speak the language, then you are a slave to technology, not it's master.

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You still need to input the correct formula to get the answer. You still need to know how to get the correct answer. Yes technology and a calculator can do the math for you but it can’t input the math problem. And sometimes it’s not always correct so.. you really need to be smarter than a machine.

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Math is a logic based problem solving process. Without a basic understanding of that you are just another primate pushing buttons.

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Also helps to know when the calculator is wrong (user error). Hand them a TI calculator with -1^2 and ask them to answer before they hit enter. Then explain why the calc thinks that is -1. Super basic but gets the job done.

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You're correct. No offense taken. That is not what the students intend to put into the calculator.

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If you don't understand what the calculator or technology is doing how can you help yourself when the technology is not available or has malfunctioned?

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I teach a finance section to my seniors, so i whip out the formula for loan amortization and explain that this is real life math. Every single person in here will be affected by this formula, but in order to be able to get to job specific math you need to master the basics

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You have to know enough math to know how to enter the question in and realize you have the right answer. They are only thinking add subtract multiply and divide. Technology is the tool to make it easier to handle.

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This is why I push the students to estimate answers before using a calculator- what if you put in the wrong number and you get an entirely different number? This way, students are still using number sense and making sense of their answer/problem

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