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Can This Data Be True?

One of my colleagues (J.M.) was doing some informal data-gathering as part of one of her classes. The students in the class are basically involved in their internship (K-8), but meet weekly with J.D. to discuss issues in mathematics education.

Her topic for one week was “The Role of Calculators in the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics.” The 32 interning-students were asked to survey their classroom placements (K-8) as to the actual use of calculators. The interns had been observing, participating, and teaching in these classrooms for more than half-a-year.

The results (n = 32) were surprising:

  • 16 interns were in classrooms that never used calculators
  • 13 interns were in classrooms that almost never used calculators and when they did, it was to check answers of pencil and paper computation
  • 2 interns were in classrooms that sometimes used calculators to develop or explore mathematical ideas
  • 1 intern was in a classroom that often used calculators and usually in appropriate ways
  • None of the interns felt that their classrooms approached the ideal as seen via VanderWahl text, the NCTM Standards, and other class readings
While sharing the data, J.M. commented: "Could this be typical after 35 years of affordable calculators? Sad."