We’re trying out a new maths program with my boys.  Ben called me for help on a question and we kept getting it wrong.

The question was about selecting factors of 48.  There were several numbers to choose and we kept missing one of them out. So I got my calculator out to double check an answer. I’m not embarrassed to say my 16 times tables are a bit rusty!

Ben then said, ‘That’s cheating mum!’.

I said, ‘No, it’s not.’

Why do schools have this big thing against using calculators to help with standard/straightforward maths? Why is it wrong? Why do we have this fixation that learning is about being able to memorise or quickly calculate relatively simple sums in our heads? Or being able to long calculate sums on paper.

I can’t remember the last time I used long division or multiplication on paper in real life. Erm, perhaps it’s probably because I haven’t.  If I want to divide something then I use a calculator or a spreadsheet.  I then usually check the answer to make sure it looks and feels right.

In real life (now) if you need an answer then you figure out the most effective and perhaps quickest way to find it out.  The important thing (I believe) is to get to the right answer in an acceptable amount of time.  If getting a calculator out means you get to the right answer quicker, then use a calculator!  I seriously dislike wasting time. I like using tools. I like researching subjects as and when I need to.

Does it really matter how you get to the final answer? Does it make sense to make people feel dumb if they can’t calculate it in their head?

Using a calculator is not cheating. Just like using the internet is not cheating. They are skills to be learned. Very important ones too.  Ones that don’t get covered enough at school.