The problem with the calculator is that you have to know maths to be able to use it.
Calculators do the calculations. But they don’t do maths.
By which I mean that the calculator tells the user the answer to a calculation such as 9753 divided by 23.
And yes, it will give you the answer to a large number of decimal points in the blink of an eye.
But the calculator doesn’t actually help the user know how to solve a problem.
As when five friends rent a four-bedroomed house in which one of the bedrooms is tiny. Should they all pay the same rent or should the couple sharing pay less per person but more for their shared room?
And what about the person in the tiny box room – should she pay less than the others as she has nowhere to store all her stuff?
And if she should pay less, how much less?
Fortunately, primary school pupils have a few years to go before they have to face such conundrums – and even longer before they have to start working out what happens if the interest rate goes up half way through a 25-year mortgage.
But to be able to understand how to do such maths, and what the answers actually mean, they need to start working on problem-solving from year one onwards.
Plus, even more importantly, they need to see that there are often several different ways of getting to the right answer.
So the question arises, how can we best teach children to understand the questions and find a route towards the answers?
To find out how we have approached this issue please do take a look at Open Ended Maths Investigations for Primary Schools on our website. There are sample pages to try with your pupils.