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Put the calculator away!

I went to high school and college back in the day when computers consisted of eight or ten large boxes, each the size of a dishwasher or freezer and connected to each other by cables, taking up most of a very chilly room. We punched out holes in cards and a stack of cards were needed for simple commands. We'd feed the cards into one of the large boxes, and several hours or days later, we'd have our answer.

There was a device that looked like a cash register called an adding machine. If you had a huge stack of numbers to crunch, you could borrow it. For most other calculations, we did them by hand or used a slide rule. There were trig tables and logarithm tables if we had need of such things.

What a huge improvement to get the knowledge and the numbers we need with a few pushes of the buttons, clicks of the mouse, or taps on our touch screen phone! Cashiers don't have to figure out change; it's automatic. We don't even need to carry cash or change; the debit card does the trick. Our kids don't play cards or monopoly (with all the numbers and counting that goes on); they play video games. Our information age has carried us far away from hands-on activities that use numbers. Calculators of one form or another are always at our fingertips, feeding us the answer.

In the classroom, calculators are causing a great deal of trouble. Our students are not learning math, they are learning how to push buttons. I believe calculators should not be used in math class (with very few exceptions) until the student is well into calculus. When a student's "number sense" is lost or never developed, that student will not learn math until he or she goes back and learns how numbers work. So, put the calculator away, and pick up your pencil instead. And while you're at it, how about a nice game of monopoly?