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Calculators: Cool Tools or Crutches?

January 06, 20231 min read

Let’s face it: knowing basic math and performing calculations without a calculator, trains the brain, disciplines the mind, and increases brain speed.

We can all access the calculator app on our phones and although they are a handy tool, there is one fundamental principle that all parents and teachers need to know: children should not use calculators before they master the basic math skills.  

Why? Glad you asked. Because using a calculator hinders a child’s innate understanding of math. And that can set them up for future failure, (which is just not a good option, don’t you agree?).

Here are some of the downsides of allowing children to use calculators:

  • Calculators prevent elementary students from discovering and understanding basic mathematical concepts.

  • They give students false confidence.

  • Using a calculator actually hinders the ability to problem-solve.   

  • Calculators foster dependence on a tool rather than allowing students to learn necessary math skills. 

  • Calculators are only as good as the user. If a student accidentally enters the wrong information, they will get the wrong answer.  

To be clear, I’m not dissing calculators. It’s cool to let elementary students use calculators to check their work.

The difference is that, when students have learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide with pencil & paper and their own brainpower FIRST, the calculator becomes a tool and not a crutch.

And won’t these skills be handy as students advance to higher grades? Oh yeah. They will certainly be confronted with exams – gulp – and not allowed to use a calculator – gasp!

Let’s eliminate the cycle of failure and set them up for success right from the get-go.

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Kohila Sivas

Kohila Sivas is a parent and a lifelong learner. She has been a classroom teacher at all levels and a Special Needs Instructor and is a Professional Math Interventionist, a Master NLP coach, and a #1 Best selling author.

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