Relevant Skills, Real-World Resources

While we had our final football game of the year [conference champs!] I noticed this young lady finishing her math homework. As most teachers do, I became intrigued by her attention and drive to finish. It appeared that she wasn’t really working that hard but more energy went into completing the task.  She had borrowed someone’s cell phone to get through this work.  From the picture, you can see this wasn’t a PDA or smartphone, but just a simple calculator tool on a regular flip phone.

I began a slight conversation with her and took this picture of the math topic.  The class was assigned 24 problems in all, the even problems for the section. Like most math textbooks, these sections were heavy with computation problems up front then a couple of higher level problems at the end. 

Seeing her work these problems reminds me of conversations with math teachers about their reluctance to allow students to use calculators for fear of building a dependence on calculators. We’ve all talked to math teachers about this topic and have heard the same rationales: ‘they won’t always have a calculator’; ‘how do they learn the basics?’

This was some great validation.  This young lady made some serious points to teachers who are looking and listening:
  • Relevant skills – [Specific to NC] Math End-of-Grade tests for 3-8 grades are 2/3 calculator active and 1/3 calculator inactive.  The curriculum is designed to assess skills other than the computation we were trained on and that we value so much. How rigorous would your work be if you gave a calculator for every homework assignment? What are you measuring?  Is your work based on the curriculum or the math skills you were taught to value?
  • Real-world Resources – 15 years ago the argument of calculators not being prevalent may have been worthy but today, that looks altogether different.  This young lady’s cell phone is nothing fancy but it serves her purpose. Let’s expand that a little – how many students do you have that own a cell phone with no service or with no regular service but use the other tools? We need to appreciate the 21st century resourcing available to our students and plan for it.
Last night was daylight’s saving time and my wife and I were laughing at the fact that we never touched a clock or device to set it back – automatic process. Our 16 year old daughter has NO expectation to update devices – Natives & Immigrants! 
We all have to adjust our thinking for new resources and none more critical than in our classrooms.
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