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Lately I've had a number of students who have erred on homework and tests because they haven't used their calculator correctly. It's not for lack of understanding technology or their calculator's basic functions that causes the problem. Rather, the problem actually boils down to an overestimation of the calculator's ability to understand the user's intended meaning. Let me explain: A common online "troll" question is "48รท2(9+3) = ?" which can be correctly evaluated in two ways, depending on how it is interpreted. Some calculators will return 2, while others will return 288. Strictly-speaking, both are technically correct. Why? It's all about interpretation. We could interpret it as 48/[2(9+3)], which would give us an answer of 2, or we could interpret it as (48/2)*(9+3), which would give us an answer of 288. The question is posed in an ambiguous way such that we have to assume the author's intended expression in order to proceed. What... read more

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