# This is what calculators have done to this generation

I went to dinner with two of my friends this evening. It was a cafeteria type thing. Many of the items of food come with stickers on their packages telling their name, and cost. Well, it’s a running joke among us to take the stickers off and wear them. Then you can tell people that you’re a chocolate chip cookie for .85. My friend put five of them on me tonight. They were: [ul] [li]Chocolate chip cookie, for .85[/li][li]Orange jello, for .75[/li][li]Orange jello, for .75, again[/li][li]Vegetable egg roll, for \$1.29[/li][li]Single creation (I believe this was from Asian Creations, so the name probably has to do with that) for \$4.75[/li][/ul]

Then we tried to figure out how much I was worth total.

That took us awhile.

We did eventually figure it out, without a calculator too! I’m worth \$8.39. Anyone want to buy me?

You have strange friends and stranger taste in meals. Chocolate chip cookies with egg rolls?

Not sure I understand the calculator angle - do calculators make you put stickers on people?

That wasn’t all one meal. Keep in mind that there were three people there.

I mention calculators, because we were having trouble with addition. Simple addition that any second-grader can do. And why? Because we just use calculators…

That depends. Are you overvalued, undervalued, or fairly valued?

Do we get to eat you?

This from a doper named Muffin

<peers at OP> are you full of potential allergens?

A* fresh * Muffin, at that.

I’m really really good at adding up long lists of single-digit numbers in my head. This comes from totalling exam scores. Lots. And Lots. Of exam scores. It’s kind of creepy actually, because I don’t think “Okay, three plus five plus 2 plus 2 plus 9 plus 6 plus . . .” I just stare at the list for a couple of seconds and the answer pops into my head. Even without practice, it’s faster to do in your head than using a calculator–and at least for me, more accurate because there aren’t any miskeying errors, so it makes sense to do it without a calculator.

As someone who does a lot more math on a daily basis than the average population, and there are plenty of things I do well in my head because they’re fast and not too hard and I have to do them often, so I have a lot of practice–but there’s plenty more stuff where I reach for my calculator. How often do you have to do the sort of arithmetic in the OP? I don’t know that it would be worthwhile to practice it, when that’s the sort of task well suited to using a calculator. So I wouldn’t feel bad about it.

What absolutely kills me, though, is that, despite the fact that they are utterly dependent on their graphing calculators and couldn’t add two three-digit numbers in their head if their life depended on it, some of my students are so lousy at using them.

I have students who haven’t noticed that their graphing calculator has an ANS button, so if they need then number they’ve just calculated, they type it in again.

Many of them have NO clue how to switch modes from degrees to radians. NONE. And they’re afraid to go into any of the calculator’s menus, even just to look at them, for fear that they will screw something up.

And scientific notation! Oy! Some of them don’t know what the EXP button does, so instead of typing in 6.4 EXP 6, they type 6.4 x 10^6, which is two more keystrokes because 10^ is Shift-log–or, if they haven’t noticed the 10^ button, they type one zero x[sup]y[/sup]. They don’t know their calculator’s order of operation rules, so when they want 5.2 sin (81+3.2) they type 5.2 sin 81 + 3.2 and get the wrong answer, or if they want 5.2 EXP 6/100, they’ll type (5.2 EXP 6)/100, even though the parentheses aren’t needed. Ditto for 5.2 EXP (-2). Trust me, every calculator on Earth knows that when it sees EXP-2 or x[sup]y[/sup]-3, you want a negative exponent. Considering how often they have to use scientific notation, I can’t imagine how much time certain students have wasted. All those wasted keystrokes HAVE to add up.

If you’re using your calculator more than once or twice a month, it is well worth your time to flip through the manual!

So that is why my professors always tell us students to “check the math on your scores” when we get exams back… (Except the math profs, of course).

My Ti-89 does not have an EXP button; I have to use ^.

Yeah, it does. I have a TI-89 (not titanium). The button say EE on it. It’s next to 4.

If you buy me, you can do whatever you want with me.

I would say undervalued, but that’s me.

And Podkayne, that’s, that’s… I’m speechless.

I’m a few months into my first calculus class right now, and some of my classmates have come up with a theory. Your brain can only hold so much math, and it reaches that limit right around the end of your second year of algebra. After that, for every new concept or method that gets put in, something else has to be knocked out. First to go is addition of numbers of an arbitrary number of digits, then subtraction, etc., then addition of even 1-digit numbers, basic reduction of fractions like 4/12, etc. It gets to the point where we can’t tell you the value of 3*(4+8)/2, but we can tell you its derivative or its integral (zero and 3x*(4+8)/2+C, respectively ;)).

Seriously though, I’m also taking AP Economics which requires some basic addition and multiplication without a calculator, and I’m doing fine with it, so it’s not all of us. But numbers scare me a lot more than definite integrals right now.

Huh. I do have an EE button. See, that kind of stuff they don’t tell you in the manual. I’ve been using the ^.

I tutor at a middle school and have come to believe that calculators are making kids stupid. When I was in school, calculators were verboten. The kids at my I work with cannot add simple two digit numbers in their head and, Lord, do not get me going about multiplication.

I understand that teachers are overworked and it is hard enough to get the kids to understand concepts, but these kids are dumber than a bag of bricks. A teacher gave the kids a test on addition and subtraction with negative numbers and they were allowed to use calculators. (This incidentally will not allowed when I rule to world). I don’t know how but EVERY SINGLE STUDENT FAILED THE TEST. Over 100 students. Gah.

My friend works at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club and helps the kids with their homework. When a seventh grader took out a calculator to add “17+5”, friend got so mad that he threw it (calculator, not kid) at a wall.

Darn.I was off by 5 cents. I got \$8.34 in my head.

PDF of the TI-89 manual. Check out Page 25 under “Entering a Number in Scientific Notation.”

I’m sure that ended well.

Well, if I can get a few more opinions, I’ll buy you if you’re undervalued. But I’m only going to sell you later.

God help you if you’re ever in a 7-11 or a fast-food place and the cash registers stop working.

A while ago I was at a ‘Taco Time’, and the cash register wouldn’t work. I think my order was for something like \$8.39, and I gave them a \$10, and the girl behind the counter couldn’t figure out the change. She got a pencil and paper, and still couldn’t do it. Then she called her supervisor, and the two of them had to discuss the result because neither was comfortable with the answer.

Of course, during all this I’m saying, “You owe me \$1.61.” “It’s \$1.61”. “I should get \$1.61 back.” Then I was tempted to stop them and teach them how to count out change - “Take out a penny. Now it’s \$8.40. Now a dime, and it’s \$8.50. Then two quarters, and you’re at \$9.00. Then another dollar, and voila! Change is made!”

But my god… Two people, armed with pen and paper, can’t subtract 839 from 1000 and get the right answer? I could do that in my head in about 5 seconds when I was in grade 3.

This is not the first time this has happened. I’ve come to believe that 9 out of 10 people under 25 today never learned how to do basic arithmetic without a calculator. Although I must say my daughter is in grade 3, and she seems to get plenty of drills in addition and subtraction and multiplication. So maybe was just some educational fad that passed through and wrecked half a generation’s ability to work with numbers or something.

Nah, that just means that you have to be an electrical engineer to use the calculator. It also helps if you tried slapping a fake barcode on it that took the price from \$190 to \$1.90.