Introducing the Calculator

by Laurie Laurendeau on March 27, 2012

Children are often excited to learn how to use a calculator.  Many parents hesitate letting their child use a calculator, because they don’t want their child to rely on it for doing simple computations such as        4 + 2.  Of course, I am not suggesting that this would be a good use for a calculator, but it IS important that your child know how to use one.  There are a few things that we take for granted with calculators that are important points to teach children.


Find the Clear key on your calculator (the Clear keys are all located in different places and even called different things).  Explain to him that the Clear button is like an eraser, so if they make a mistake punching numbers, they can press this Clear key and start over.  Be sure he understands that if he makes any mistake in punching of keys, that he must use the Clear key and start again.  There is not a “backspace” key as there is on a computer keyboard.


Show your child that the number keys go from 0 to 9.  So, if he has a 2 (or more) digit number to punch in (such as 46), he will need to punch in a 4 followed by a 6.   Encourage him to look at the display as he punches numbers in to be sure he is pressing hard enough.


Point out the 4 operation keys (+  –  x  / ).  Tell him that he will only be using the  +  and –  signs for now.  Also, show him the = sign, and be sure he understands what it means and how we use it. See if he can punch in a simple addition fact that he knows the answer to (for example 2 + 2 =).   The display should show the answer of 4. Now press the Clear key and have him practice with other addition and/or subtraction facts.


Show your child how he can add up several numbers in a row without having to press the equal sign (=) along the way.  For example, if he wanted to add 5 + 9 + 3, he could type “5 + 9 + 3 =”.  Help him practice with other series of numbers.


Even if you are using a simple calculator (as opposed to a more complicated scientific calculator), there will be keys on there that he will not be using right now.  For example, there may be keys called “MC”, “MR”,  “M-“ , “M+”, “+/-“, the square root symbol, etc…  These are not keys he needs to worry about at this time.


Have some fun with some calculator riddles at this website:


  • As always, playing math games at home is a great way to reinforce math skills learned in school.
  • Have questions or ideas about this story?
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