If you’re wondering what to get your 5 year old this year for Christmas or his / her birthday, you might want to consider a calculator. In Virginia calculators are a major part of our elementary mathematics curriculum, starting in Kindergarten.
The 2009 revision of the Math Standards of Learning removed calculators from the standards themselves, but the Curriculum Framework,which provides the essential understanding and skills students should acquire from each standard, continues to reflect heavy calculator use in elementary grades and recommends that calculators play a major role in how our children learn math.
In Kindergarten our children are learning what numbers are and what they represent, how they can be combined and taken apart, and how to count by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s both forward and backward. The state Curriculum Framework says, “The patterns developed as a result of skip counting are precursors for recognizing numeric patterns, functional relationships, and concepts underlying money, telling time, and multiplication. Powerful models for developing these concepts include, but are not limited to, counters, hundred chart, and calculators. Calculators can be used to display the numeric patterns that result from skip counting.”
I never knew that hitting the “+” on a calculator 10 times taught my child so much.
In first grade the emphasis is on learning basic addition and subtraction facts through 18. How does the state suggest these facts be mastered? “Calculators, “ according to the state of Virginia, “are an appropriate way to compute“. This language appears in the essential skills necessary to master basic addition and subtraction facts.
In second and third grades calculators are an “acceptable computational tool.” This is for children who are learning how to add and subtract 2 digit numbers and their basic multiplication and division facts.
In fourth and fifth grades students are faced with fractions, large digit multiplication, and long division. These are complex topics which play a major role in teaching children what real numbers are – a topic which is of utmost importance if they are ever to succeed in higher math. How does the state suggest these extremely important topics be understood and mastered? “Calculators should be used to solve problems that require tedious calculations.”
PWCS takes it one step further and claims that “Using calculators during problem solving changes the focus from the steps in the computational algorithm to the process for solving the problem.”
Yet the National Math Advisory Panel warned “Caution should be exercised in the use of calculators.”
Apparently the folks at the Virginia Department of Educaiton and PWCS missed that bit.
The Curriculum Framework is still in draft. The State Board of Education hasn’t approved it, yet. With so many DOE employees worshiping at the alter of calculators, I’m not sure we’ll be able to change their minds, but we may be able to convince the Board of Education Members, who are supposed to represent us, to direct the DOE to remove calculators from our elementary schools.
You can find the Math Curriculum Framework and the state contact point at this link. Send her a note and let her know that you want calculators out of Virginia Elementary Schools.