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Others are against using calculator in lower level math teaching, saying that it makes children not to learn their basic facts, prevents students from discovering and understanding underlying mathematical concepts and instead encourages them to randomly try different operations without understanding what they're doing.

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I am 100% skeptic here: I've always used a calculator and while it's easier than doing long division by hand, I've always found that manual calculations made me like math less than I should. The really interesting stuff is elsewhere...

What does science say? Is there a proven impact on learning?

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No, calculators have no negative impact on learning.


The studies done thus far show that calculators only have a positive impact on learning. Only one exception was the grade 4 class from a 1986 study.

A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Calculators on Students Achievement and Attitude Levels in Precollege Mathematics Classes

The findings of 54 research studies were integrated through meta-analysis to determine the effects of calculators on student achievement and attitude levels. Effect sizes were generated through Glassian techniques of meta-analysis, and Hedges and Olkin's (1985) inferential statistical methods were used to test the significance of effect size data. Results revealed that students' operational skills and problem-solving skills improved when calculators were an integral part of testing and instruction. The results for both skill types were mixed when calculators were not part of assessment, but in all cases, calculator use did not hinder the development of mathematical skills. Students using calculators had better attitudes toward mathematics than their noncalculator counterparts. Further research is needed in the retention of mathematics skills after instruction and transfer of skills to other mathematics-related subjects. -- Source

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Effects of hand-held calculators in precollege mathematics education: A meta-analysis

The findings of 79 research reports were integrated by meta-analysis to assess the effects of calculators on student achievement and attitude. Effect sizes were derived by the method invented by Glass and tested for consistency and significance with inferential statistics provided by Hedges. At all grades but Grade 4, a use of calculators in concert with traditional mathematics instruction apparently improves the average student's basic skills with paper and pencil, both in working exercises and in problem solving. Sustained calculator use in Grade 4 appears to hinder the development of basic skills in average students. Across all grade and ability levels, students using calculators possess a better attitude toward mathematics and an especially better self-concept in mathematics than students not using calculators -- Source

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The Effects of Non-CAS Graphing Calculators on Student Achievement and Attitude Levels in Mathematics: A Meta-Analysis

Forty-two studies comparing students with access to graphing calculators during instruction to students who did not have access to graphing calculators during instruction are the subject of this meta-analysis. The results on the achievement and attitude levels of students are presented. The studies evaluated cover middle and high school mathematics courses, as well as college courses through first semester calculus. When calculators were part of instruction but not testing, students' benefited from using calculators while developing the skills necessary to understand mathematics concepts. When calculators were included in testing and instruction, the procedural, conceptual, and overall achievement skills of students improved. -- Source

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