|Basic arithmetic skills|
Message #8 Posted by Frank Wales on 23 Aug 2003, 10:44 p.m.,
in response to message #5 by christof (NoVA US)
If you believe that having a calculator automatically means a child will never learn to add, that's your prerogative, of course.
Well, I don't think it's automatic; I can add, and I had a load of calculators at school, but only in later years (15+), so my experience isn't directly germane. (Plus, in Scotland in the 1970s, arithmetic was a separately-taught subject from mathematics, and attempted to provide a reasonable education in day-to-day number work for those who weren't studying maths proper.)
However, here is a story from the other day which might be a small data point that tells us something about something.
I was buying a calculator on eBay (no surprise there), and had to get a money order to pay for it. I went to the closest Western Union agent to my home, which happened to be a bureau-de-change in a travel agent. The total cost of the money order was £27.49 plus a £12.00 fee.
The manager had to get a calculator to add these two numbers together.
Once he'd figured out that I owed him £39.49, I gave him £40 in cash. He then asked me if I had a penny, to make the change he had to give me easier.
A puzzled look must have come over my face, because he clarified that he didn't have any pennies. So I thought: "ah, he's going to give me fifty-*two* pence, so he wants a penny back."
So I gave him a penny. He then gave me a fifty pence piece in return, and indicated he was done.
I pointed out that he had owed me 51 pence in change.
After a few moments looking at me, he then looked at the penny in his hand, and the fifty pence piece in mine, smiled the smile of a problem well solved, and handed the penny back to me.
At this point, I thought I was in one of those splitting-the-bill puzzles where a dollar "goes missing" between the waiter and the diners, and really didn't fancy having to draw diagrams to explain what was going on.
So I repeated that I'd been owed 51 pence, and that so far, I'd only been given 50. After an even longer period of looking at me funny, the guy said it had been a long day, took a penny from his cash drawer (which previously he'd claimed he didn't have), and handed it to me.
Now, I would just like to point out, for those who didn't spot it the first time, that this guy RUNS A BUREAU-DE-CHANGE! Yet, apparently he can't add small currency values, nor correctly reckon change, in his head.
Thank goodness that he can work a calculator, eh?