Voice of Truth

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In Which I Ramble on about Calculators 21 September 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aly @ 10:45 pm

A few days ago, we got a free period in IB Geography. I ended up helping the girl next to me use a graphing calculator. Rana is an exchange student from Lebanon, and it is my luck (I say this sincerely) to sit next to her in geography.

As much as I try to pass for “Indian”, I am in certain mentalities purely American. For one thing, I am lazy as hell. :) But as I showed Rana how to do magical things on the calculator (calculating intersects and values, using the table, adjusting the window, etc.), I realized how different things are elsewhere in the world.

She told me she’d never seen a graphing calculator before (I’m sure my cousins in India have never seen one either); totally understandable. But as I showed her all the things the calculator could do, she was very surprised, but then told me that she wouldn’t use the functions I was showing her. Rana pointed out something very true: calculators make you lazy. I know it is so obvious, but it hit me again when she said that. (I don’t think I need to explain my reasoning for this claim.)

Of course, there is another way of looking at the matter: calculators do the drudgery, leaving your mind free to deal with the conceptual parts of the problem. While I argued that to Rana, I don’t fully buy it. Having the calculator do it for you no doubt makes you less adept at algebra. And if you have a teacher like my calculus teacher, that is just not acceptable. If you cannot do the algebra, how are you ready for calculus?

Anyway, I remember seeing a graphing calculator in Algebra II freshman year. It was amazing for me. A calculator can do all that? My reaction was not unlike Rana’s. But over the past two years, I have become so used to the idea that I cannot imagine life without my lovely calculator. :)

Just one last thought: think of all the things we do with calculators. Then, imagine how the people in China or India or Lebanon or whatever do those same things. You can bet the learn it, and you can bet they do it by hand. In conclusion, we’re all screwed. Let’s all learn Mandarin and move to China.

I think I need to name my calculator. I am taking suggestions, so if you think of something cute, inside-jokey, punny, or whatever, let me know.

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