Since sixth grade, my TI-30XS Multiview calculator has stuck by my side during math class. My TI-30XS Multiview and I have been through ups and downs: my first Geometry Honors test (yikes), starting high school and my triumph over the 8/9 PSAT math section. I knew how to work the calculator inside and out. When I walked into my Precalculus Honors class on the first day of sophomore year, my math teacher explained that the required calculator had changed to a TI-30Xa. Stunned, my stomach dropped. My handy-dandy TI-30XS Multiview would no longer join me on my journey through the tricky waters of high school math classes.
Shocked about the change, I decided to reach out the head of the math department to find out what spurred the change. According to Mrs. Samantha Smiley, math teachers worried students relied too much on the TI-30XS Multiview. To discuss the problem, the math department convened last year. “It was agreed across the department that the ‘old’ calculator had the ability to solve too many foundational math skills for the students; for example, simplifying radicals. We believe that as students entered the higher level math courses, they were losing some of the basic math skills along with the number sense behind the math,” Smiley said. Additionally, the math department considered the SAT in coming to this conclusion. “Because the SAT has non-calculator parts, we needed to feel confident that students could do the math without the use of a calculator, especially one with the ability to do deeper math problems than simple arithmetics,” Smiley added.
After hearing the math department’s side of the story, I understand their concern. On the flip side, however, the scientific calculator proves a major tool in the calculator section of the SAT. Many of the problems seen on the calculator section of the test requires more in-depth calculations for which a TI-30XS Multiview provides quicker computation if known how to use. Because of my years of using the TI-30XS Multiview, I know how to utilize the many functions available, saving valuable time on such a major test.
Instead of completely replacing the TI-30XS Multiview calculator, I suggest a compromise. To make sure students grasp the concept, ban the use of calculators on quizzes (unless absolutely necessary, such as the case with certain trigonometric problems). On tests and final assessments, the ability to use the TI-30XS Multiview calculator will enable teachers to include more complex problems while maintaining confidence that students know the fundamentals.
Just like a baseball bat does not define a baseball player’s skill, the use of scientific calculators does not mirror the math skills of a student. Due to constant repetition of problems through textbook work and online assignments, scientific calculators allow students to efficiently grasp the concept without wasting time computing.