Calculators: An Introduction

by Laurie Laurendeau on October 25, 2011

Children typically begin using calculators in around First or 2nd grade.  Calculators are a wonderful tool in Math.  Many parents believe that calculators are only used in lieu of pencil-and-paper calculations, and that using a calculator is somewhat like cheating.  While this can be true, learning to use a calculator properly is a necessity for every Math student.

  • Give your child a calculator and ask him to find certain numbers on it, and have him try punching them in.  Next, ask him to find the “plus” and “minus” symbols.  Next, be sure he can locate the “equals” symbol.
  • Be sure to point out the “+/-“ symbol, and tell him that this key is not used for regular addition and subtraction.
  • Write down some simple addition facts, such as 3+2 or 5+1 and ask your child to try to find the answer using the calculator.
  • The next button with which you want to acquaint your child is the “On/C” button.  It is important for children to realize that if they make a mistake while punching in any numbers, they need to press this key to reset the screen, and NOT use the “0” button, which seems like the logical choice to many children.
  • When your child begins punching in larger numbers such as 34+76, you may have to explain that the number 34 is not on the calculator, that you have to make the number 34 using the digits 3 and 4.
  • Ask your child to punch in: “2 +2+2+2+2” while he’s looking at the screen.  He should notice that the calculator is adding up the numbers, or skip counting, along the way.
  • Children are usually very excited to use calculators.  If your child knows some of his Math Facts, try having a little race to see who can work out simple addition or subtraction questions the fastest – the adult using the calculator, or the child who says the fact.  Use this as a springboard to discuss when we would use a calculator (for more complicated calculations), and when we do not use a calculator (for simple facts).

As always, feel free to drop me a line and let me know your thoughts/suggestions/blog ideas, or how you have used any of my blog posts with your child!  I love getting mail!


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