The Scientific Calculator and School Mathematics

Barry Kissane


Scientific calculators are sometimes regarded as important only for obtaining numerical answers to computational questions, and thus in some countries regarded as inappropriate for school mathematics, lest they might undermine the school curriculum. This paper argues a contrary view that, firstly, numerical computation is not the principal purpose of scientific calculators in education, and secondly that calculators can play a valuable role in supporting students’ learning. Recent developments of calculators are outlined, noting that their
principal intention has been to make calculators easier to use, align their functionality with the school mathematics curriculum and represent mathematical expressions in conventional ways. A model for the educational use of calculators is described, with four key components:representation, computation, exploration and affirmation. Examples of how these might impact positively on school mathematics are presented, and suggestions are made regarding good pedagogy and curriculum with calculators in mind. The paper concludes that scientific calculators represent the best available technology to provide widespread access to some ICT in the mathematics curriculum for all students in the SEAMEO region.


scientific calculator; learning; technology; curriculum assessment

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Southeast Asian Mathematics Education Journal
SEAMEO Regional Centre for QITEP in Mathematics
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