Just two months after the Department of Education's recommendation that calculator usage be restricted in schools, a recent survey shows that school districts across the country are already taking action to reduce the number of calculators in use in U.S. schools. The survey, conducted by Erron Surveying Services, asked 38 school districts in 22 states for their opinions on electronic calculating devices. Twenty-six of the districts surveyed, representing over a hundred high schools, said they would introduce new rules banning calculators from being used in high school courses. Most planned to put these rules into effect by the next school year, but eight in particular said the would at least "consider" applying these changes by January first of 2011. Another three districts had not officially adopted plans for phasing out calculator usage but were in the process of deciding.
These new rules, created after a Department study discovered that students could play games on many models of graphing calculators, would ban the use of all calculators with graphing capabilities in all high school classrooms. As expected, the news caused outrage from parents and students.
"We need our calculators!" exclaimed a junior we interviewed. "They're really useful! And we don't always use them to play games in class. We need them for math, too."
A math teacher at a Chicago-area high school agreed. "I've known for years that students like to keep games on their calculators, which they sometimes play in class. It becomes a problem when the student ignores me every class, but I don't think we should ban calculators. At least not yet. We're still very used to using graphing calculator technology as a way of quickly investigating and learning about many different subjects in math."
A superintendent at the same school district had a different opinion. "Math classes have existed for hundreds of years before calculators were invented," he pointed out. "Why can't we go back to the old days, when there weren't so many distractions in the classroom?"
A spokesperson for the Department of Education also argued that calculators were "disrupting the learning environment in our education systems." "It was crushing," he said. "We never thought that even calculators could be used for gaming. We even found some students who had completely replaced the operating systems of their calculators, so that they were no longer able to do math at all. We know that students and teachers may argue that the benefits outweigh the costs, especially in advanced-level math classes, but the fact remains: Calculators are a prime cause of the deterioration of American education." Referring to the rules already in effect in school districts nationwide banning the use of iPods and cellular phones in class, he claimed that restrictions on calculators would help schools maintain an "environment suitable to learning."
Only two weeks after Casio's unveiling of its Casio Prizm color graphing calculator scheduled for release in 2011, TI has revealed that it will also release a competing color calculator, the TI-Ncourage. Designed to have even better development prospects, TI is finally (and once again) encouraging hobbyists in calculator development. Key features of this newest line include:
- a 200 MHz Pentium processor;
- a 1024x768 resolution, 32-bit color depth display;
- a multi-touch touchscreen that can be disabled for testing purposes;
- an optional QWERTY keypad, which is removable for acceptance on national tests;
- full assembly support as well as an on-calculator C++ compiler;
- a free SDK equipped with a fully-featured IDE, emulator, and debugger;
- USB 2.0/3.0 support, which could possibly lead to Internet connectivity;
- a choice of either a lithium ion battery pack or a rechargeable battery complete with charger; and
- a fully-featured app store that could "compare to Apple's famed App Store," as reported by a company spokesperson for TI.
In addition, the TI App Store will feature integration with the major calculator program portal ticalc.org, which means that the Wacky Fun Random Numbar Generator has finally been officially endorsed by TI.
The TI-Ncourage has already been accepted by the College Board for use on the PSAT, SAT, and math-related AP tests. No word has been received from the ACT, however.