Maria’s Calculator Rant and throwing down a challenge

Nov 14, 2007 by

Here’s my little graphing calculator rant… it started as a P.S. to the previous post about the free Casio and grew into something much larger than a P.S. Anyways, don’t read if you don’t want to hear me whine about graphing calculator politics.

I’m quite sick of calculators doing more and more stuff that is really not welcome in the classroom. Honestly, I won’t be surprised the first time a student’s graphing calculator picks up a pencil and takes their test for them, showing all the proper work. Surely, it’s not that far off! Can’t anyone just begin making graphing calculators that DON’T do more and more but get cheaper instead?

Every other technology has come down in price: cell phones, MP3 players, desktops, laptops, etc. Somebody please make a basic graphing calculator without all these ridiculous frills that really just help a few students cheat better on tests. The students aren’t going to use the “calendar” feature on the calculator (they’ve got cell phones for that). They aren’t going to responsibly use the CAS that’s built in to many of the calculators now. It’s just a way for them to forget any algebraic skill they might have learned at some point in time.

Which of the frills do the students use? They download notes from the internet to their calculator, they download games to play in class, and they use the detailed periodic table and conversions that are built into their calculator to avoid learning the skills that are fundamental in their science classes (which is why they are now banned in many of our chemistry classes).

The calculator companies will say… oh, but students want those features and so we’re just giving them what they want. Let’s not be daft. Students buy what the school or instructor tells them to buy. I don’t need them to have all these extra features in their graphing calculator. In fact, I could teach them better if the calculator would just do graphing, tables, and calculations. Period.

With initiatives like the $100 laptop for every child (OLPC project), does it seem odd to anyone but me that graphing calculators still cost over $100? For heaven’s sake… it’s JUST a calculator!!!

Here’s my challenge to TI, Casio, HP, and anyone else willing to jump into the fray (Wolfram? Maple? M.I.T.? Apple?). Let’s see a $20 graphing calculator for every college student project (OGCPCS)… and while we’re wishing on a rainbow, let’s have it be solar powered too. Without a backlit screen, it doesn’t do it any good to have battery power in the dark anyways.

And if you feel the same, let’s hear a commented “AMEN!”

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  1. Mighty Meg


    And then I can stop having students go out and buy TI-89’s mid-semester because someone told them it could do all the problems for them… and then failing the tests in a far more spectacular fashion since they have no idea how to work the darn thing!

  2. Robert Foth


  3. Anonymous


  4. Dan

    You go girl! I couldn’t agree more. There is nothing fancy about what a graphing calculator needs to do now and I am all about a virtual calculator, as you know. There you go, my first post!

    Dan Petrak

  5. Mr. Hanson


    I feel you. Thanks for sending me over to your blog from dangerously irrelevant.


  6. XYZZY

    While I would say, “Amen,” I am going to keep it to, “ahem.” That is to say, I think that, given the state of textbook strangleholds on education and curricular considerations these days, it would be more worthwhile to spend any spare vitriol on textbook manufacturers instead.

  7. Forest

    I’d be in favor of just getting rid of the graphing calculators altogether. Students can use computers to graph on homework assignments, and if a test is well written then a graphing calculator should be completely unnecessary (unless of course, you don’t really understand the math.)


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