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Education Handhelds Math United States Hardware

Calculator Flaw Forces Recall in Virginia 687

Posted by timothy
from the slight-bump-to-the-gravy-train dept.
Jivecat writes "CNN is reporting that TI is recalling 11,000 calculators issued to students in Virginia because of a flaw that would give them an unfair advantage on standardized tests. A 12-year-old discovered that by pressing two keys at once, the calculators will convert decimals to fractions. The tests require the students to know how to do this with pencil-and-paper." So the calculator is being recalled because it's not crippled enough. Maybe it's a good time to question the wisdom of issuing expensive electronics to students in the first place, though I'm sure the calculator companies would rather you didn't.
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Calculator Flaw Forces Recall in Virginia

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  • Next To Go: '+' Sign (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geomon (78680) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:26PM (#12762676) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, isn't this a bit of an overreation?

    So what if the calculators make it easier to convert from decimal to fraction? Train *all* of the students to use the feature and its value as an advantage.

    As for the issue of using a pencil and paper, then that is how you verify that they *know* how to make the conversion and didn't rely on the two-key method.

    Bureaucracy masked as education.
    • by stripmarkup (629598) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:30PM (#12762725) Homepage
      I disagree. Being able to convert decimals to fractions is something that everybody should know. Teaching someone to look under the hood and know how things work is important. After that, they can choose to never look again and use a tool if they want.
      • I agree that they should know how to do this. Wouldn't the easy solution be to disallow calculators on the test?
      • That's why you don't allow calculators on that part of the test. It would be unreasonable to expect a teacher to be absolutely 100% familiar with the features of every single claculator on the market. It would be equally unreasonable to demand that a student buy a particular model.

        But, by simply saying that since you are expected to know how to do something on your own, you have to do it on your own, you side-step the problem. We used to have tests in calculus, where part was calculator-allowed, and par
        • by spizkapa (198167) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:42PM (#12762859) Homepage
          It's much easier to adopt a system like in some Universities in Britain where the examinations office provide standard calculators for all students who need to use one in their exam. This way, the exam setter can make sure noone gets an unfair advantage.
          • by Igmuth (146229)
            The thing is, that they did provide standard calculators! The problem was that the standard calculators had extra features that they did not want the students to have.
        • by DeathFlame (839265) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:51PM (#12762957)
          While it may be unreasonable to demand that a student buy a particular model, that doesn't mean it is not done:

          http://www.engineering.ualberta.ca/nav03.cfm?nav03 =19343&nav02=18510&nav01=18439 [ualberta.ca]

          I graduated last year however, so the policy never affected me because my class complained enough so that only the people after us were stuck with this policy.

          And the approved list was much stupider at the start as well, with calculators like the TI-82 (which I used to have) and the TI-83 not allowed, but the TI-83 plus WAS allowed.

          It seems they've pulled the stick out of their ass a little bit.
          • No HP 48's? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Barbarian (9467)
            http://www.engineering.ualberta.ca/nav03.cfm?nav0 3 =19343&nav02=18510&nav01=18439

            I took Engineering school about 300 km south, and we were still allowed the HP 48 GX then. Experimentation showed that the reliable communication range was about six inches. If you were that close to your fellow student during an exam, you would already be under suspicion.

            I previously had a TI-85 when I went through high school, ending back in 1995. It had the infamous decimal-> fraction conversion.
      • I believe the point is that if you give marks for working, you won't benefit much from knowing the two button method anyway since that ill only give you the answer not the method.

        I remember in my tests there was always more marks for working than for the answer, and even if the answer was wrong you'd still get marks for correct working, for example if you made a typo at the start but were then consistent.
        • by WillerZ (814133) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @07:30PM (#12763383) Homepage
          I hated those tests, as it really punishes the people who can look at the question and see the answer without doing any "working".

          0.25 == 1/4. I do not now, nor have I ever needed a calculator or a method for working this out.
          • by thesandtiger (819476) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:58PM (#12765233)
            You remind me of me when I was learning algebra.

            5x=20. Show your work.

            For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what the fuck they were talking about. My work? x is obviously 4. You'd have to be a retard not to get it, right? What "work" is there to show? They said "No, show that you're dividing both sides by 5" and I was just baffled - well it's OBVIOUS that both sides need to be divided by 5! Do people really need to be *told* that?

            Then they tossed up a quadratic equation on the board, and suddenly I saw the value of showing my work - namely that sometimes you will be dealing with problems that aren't as obvious as turning .25 into a fraction, and there you go, you'll need a method.

            Personally, I work best with a practical approach - giving me "real" problems to solve rather than things that are too easy helps greatly because I don't wind up resenting the use of a seemingly pointless technique when the answer is obvious.

            When I was teaching my nephew math, I always started him off with non-obvious problems so he'd *have* to learn this stuff inside and out. It seems to have worked - he's now an associate professor in the mathematics/compsci department of a rather nice university.
      • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@@@comcast...net> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:47PM (#12762904) Journal
        I dissagree. Very few people in real world situations EVER need to know how to do this, and most people know the easy ones like .5, .3, .25 etc. If you where in a field where this kinds of calculations where needed all the time, then yes you would need to know how to do them. But honestly I have yet to use anything i learned beyond basic math and trig outside of my work.


        Quite frankly I find it more a crime on teaching people how to NOT find the answer, than to use a god damn calculator, especially as we start teaching what was college grade math earlier and earlier in education.


        Perfect example. prof set forth a problem that the class had to solve in 3 minutes. All the students scrambled to figure it out except one. The one got up left the room went to our advisors room grabbed a book and came back to class with the answer.
        He got the A that day cause the test wasnt the problem, it was who was going to waste their time trying to figure it out on paper when the answer was staring you in the face on the bookshelf.

        • by kiddailey (165202) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @08:31PM (#12763894) Homepage

          This line of thinking is exactly why cashiers can't give correct change when the power goes out, the network is down, or you give them odd change so you get rid of change and get whole dollars back.

          Setting the bar as low as you suggest begs the question: Why teach anything that you can use a calculator for?

          IMO, the point isn't even the math. It's about teaching someone the basics of thinking through a problem without pulling the answer from somewhere.

          <soapbox>We're already teaching our kids that there are no losers. Giving them the lesson that you don't have to understand and solve simple problems is just another step towards a society of people who, in Real Life®, find themselves facing problems without the help of a cheat sheet and simply wait for someone else to solve them (which eventually will stop happening).</soapbox>
          • I like your dig at underpaid workers with the "cashiers can't give change" thing. I don't agree, though.

            Change is not a complex calculation. It's a lookup and a running total. You take the 10's complement of the smallest non-zero digit. You take the 9's complement of the rest of the larger digits. You start grabbing change and keep a running total, checking that total with each piece of money you pick up that you're not grabbing too much.

            Cashiers do that sort of thing enough that any one of them with two
          • by mysidia (191772) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @01:57AM (#12765805)
            Setting the bar as low as you suggest begs the question: Why teach anything that you can use a calculator for?

            He's not begging the question. Begging the question is a rhetorical tactic that involves use of an essentially circular argument, making a proof reliant on itself, but, he's only stated an opinion.

            The fact of the matter is conversion of non-repeating decimals to fractions is simple enough, and this is fundamental to the understanding of fractions, a rudimentary mathematical skill that any person learned at elementary level or better should be adept at, just like every reasonably educated person should know what the Constitution is, know a little history, plus some of the general basic ideas in literature, reading, writing, biology, and the physical sciences..

            We are not talking rocket science or even things so advanced as trig here, kids should learn this. It does not matter if they will need to use this particular item from mathematics often in their work, but they might later find the skill was very useful to have.

            There are a lot of skills kids should learn. Some of them will be useful in their lives, some of them they might not be useful. But there is no way to tell for sure in advance, and certainly they won't be useful if never acquired (probably it means they lost some benefit or satisfaction they would have had if they had learned the skill).

            If educators in Virginia have found that their students tend to have difficulty converting decimals to fractions (or otherwise dealing with fractions), then they surely should be testing them on the related skills.

            There are more important and fundamental topics, yes, but the notion of fractions and the understanding of how to get them how to work with them, etc, are far from unimportant.

      • by vivin (671928) <vivin...paliath@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:57PM (#12763029) Homepage Journal
        I have to agree with the parent. Calculators are useful, but they can quite easily also turn into a crutch.

        I studied in the Indian CBSE [wikipedia.org] and AISSE system of education. We weren't allowed any calculators at all, for any subject. We had to use Log (logarithm) tables. Essentially we would convert any problem into base 10 log and then solve it from there. It was supposed to be "easier" because multiplication and division change into addition and subtraction. Exponentiation just becomes division.

        Sure, I hated it at the time. It was a total bitch to do anything, but as a result, I got really good at my arithmetic. Even today I can remember the log base 10 values for 2, 3, 4, and 5... .3010, .4771, .6020, .6989... and no, I didn't look those up in a calculator :).

        Even in university, I had friends who had the TI-92 which could do symbolic integration. I had a lowly Casio model. I didn't mind, because I understood calculus and did everything by hand.

        Basically, learning to do things by hand is a good skill to have. So you don't rely on a calculator where things happen "magically". Of course, when there's a time crunch, a powerful calculator helps, but it's still nice to know how things work under the hood.
    • by ebuck (585470)
      It's an overreaction, but for all the wrong reasons.

      I never had a math teacher that I respected who didn't ask his class to, "Show all of your work" for any given problem.

      If the "work" seems to consist of writing the question, and then writing the answer, you failed. In this case, it's a simple matter of the teachers not wanting to have to grade appropriately, or failure of them to test approprately.
  • Uh, isn't it TI (Score:5, Informative)

    by captainbeardo (868266) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:27PM (#12762690) Homepage
    Am I blind or does it say Texas Instruments, not HP?
    • by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp.freeshell@org> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:43PM (#12762861) Homepage Journal
      On a similar note, Microsoft will be recalling 3 billion instances of RedHat from the market. Apparently all you have to install it, and the secret "doesn't crash or get hacked" function starts working, giving administrators an unfair advantage over other administrators.

      It is suspected that Microsoft may make other recalls in light of this recent events, including the Playstation 2, Google's search engine, and the United States government.

      In other news, any of you that have hot girlfriends (yeah...you're probably not real, but I can pretend) will have to hand them over. I'm recalling them.

  • log books (Score:5, Funny)

    by Audent (35893) <audent&ilovebiscuits,com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:27PM (#12762691) Homepage
    I remember (back in the day - mid 80s) asking a teacher why we weren't allowed to use calcluators at all. He replied that this was to train our minds so we could do these things ourselves without aid.

    Someone else asked "So WTF is with these log books?". He got detention.

    Teachers... you've got to love them. Well, someone does.
    • I find your story kind of interesting. This year I taught trigonometry to regular level geometry students in two ways - by using a trig table and by using their calculator. About half the class liked using the trig tables, the other half liked using their calculators. I think the teacher's goal was right, but his explanation was a little off - you should be able to use data appearing in different contexts. It sounds simplistic, but I think it's important to realize that when you're looking at a log table
    • Being able to quickly add simple fractions in your head: Very Important.

      Being able to hand-calculate logarithms: Not So Important.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @07:24PM (#12763315)
        Was that most of my teachers who insisted on no or minimal calculator use were unable to differentiate between the two. In elementary school I did an awful lot of converting decimals to fractions. However it wasn't trying to learn the common ones, it was arbitrary numbers the teacher picked. Some happened to be prime so you'd get something silly that would probably never be expressed as a fraction. I mean who is going to convert .443 to 443/1000?, it's not any clearer.

        Got a similar thing in trig, we were required to do operations using sines and cosines without a calculator. Now this would be fine if it was the 90 degree incriments, or maybe 30 or something but it wasn't. It was doing arbitrary ones with a lookup graph. Errr, ok, what's the value of that? You can memorize common ones, espically the 90 degree incriments and it can help make sense of a lot of things. However I'm not going to remeber even an gross approximation for 14 degrees because I just don't need to.

        That is the real problem I think is that many math teachers aren't very good at math. I don't mean that they can't do basic math, I mean they don't really understand math. A teacher should ideally have a full understanding of what they teaching, only then can they really understand what is and isn't important to try and impart on those that are studying it only in passing.

        My best math teacher was like this, he was a mathemitician before he was a teacher and taught precalc at the community college. I ended up having to take that rather than the normal highschool precalc course because of a conflict in schedule. Now the funny thing was his tests were open book, open note, calculators allowed. However despite that, I learned more in that math class than in any other. He really understood math, adn could explain something to you in different ways, and demonstrate it in different ways until you truly understood it.

        I think too much blame is heaped on calculators. People like to foggily remember a past where there were no calculators, and everyone was good at math. Turns out that wasn't so much the case. There were still plenty of students that did poorly and, funny thing, the levels of math being taught weren't as advanced.

        So the solution isn't to ban calculators and just do lots of tedious calculations on paper, the solution is to keep the calculators and use them as tools to teach math. Not teach how to crank away on numbers, teach a real understanding of math. Don't teach kids how to factor polynomials, teach them WHY you factor polynomials, what you are actually doing, what the equations mean. Get them to the level of real understanding where they can be presented with a novel problem and apply their knowledge to solve it.

        We don't need good little calculators. As good a calculator as you can teach a person to be, I can get a better calculator out of a machine. What we need are people who understand what math is about who can take it and apply it to problems, using the calculators to do the grunt work. If you can take an equation and integrate it by hand, I'm not impressed. My TI-89 can do that and faster than you. However if you can look at an irregular container and use calculus to figure out how to make a container of that irregular shape hold a certian volume with the aid of a calculator, then I'm impressed.
        • by NeoSkandranon (515696) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @07:31PM (#12763390)
          I somewhat agree with you. My worst math teachers taught because they wanted to teach, not because they enjoyed math. My best were in engineering before they decided they wanted to teach, and had found they loved math.

          Interesetingly enough, now that i'm in college, again some of my best math teachers are in the engineering department. Some of the worst are in the math department, but that is perhaps another discussion.
    • Re:log books (Score:2, Interesting)

      by erick99 (743982)
      I remember (early 70's) the uproar over how calculators would be the end of students knowing how to use a slide rule. I can't say that I remember how to use a slide rule anymore but it was a cool sorta thing considering that it didn't rely on batteries and were relatively inexpensive. Still, I do prefer calculators. I suppose the advent of slide rules upset the abacus advocates....
      • Re:log books (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ChickenFan (887311)
        Slide rules put a man on the moon.

        Calculators have cratered at least two Mars missions.

        Ok... not the same thing.

        Slide rules rule.
    • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @07:56PM (#12763622) Homepage
      From TFA:
      "His fellow students were so proud of him and congratulatory. They thought it was really, really cool. They didn't call him a nerd or anything," said Michael Bolling, a school official in Chesterfield County.
      Damn, Mike, that's cold! Why don't you pick on somebody your own size, instead of a 12-year-old??
  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:28PM (#12762699) Homepage Journal
    All I got when I first clicked on this was 'Nothing to see here. Move along'. Something about that just doesn't [B]add[/B] up.

    Seriously though, I've been against giving calculators to grade school kids for a long time. It's all part of the dumbing down of our society. Let them learn how to do math properly, [I]then[/I] teach them how to use a calculator when they start studying higher maths that actually need one.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp.freeshell@org> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:31PM (#12762737) Homepage Journal
      I feel the same way with web development. Let them lean html and then teach them about bbcode.

      If you just give them bbcode right from the beginning, they'll think they can just always use that, and not preview their posts.
    • by zxnos (813588)
      as a side note to your comment: my wife runs a tutoring business and recently received a request for tutoring from a parent who says the teacher wont teach their child spelling and grammar becuase "those things are checked by computer". its amzaing.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

      by HyperBlazer (830880)
      Let them learn how to do math properly, then teach them how to use a calculator when they start studying higher maths that actually need one.

      Erm, just which "higher maths" need calculators? I just finished a degree in mathematics, and I was allowed to use a calculator on exactly one test during the entire degree: Numerical Analysis (that is, the approximation of solutions using computational methods).

      In high school, I learned how to use a calculator, which let me learn the minimum in calculus (etc) an

    • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:47PM (#12762909) Homepage Journal
      Unless it's applied, most higher math doesn't require a calculator (at least the Calculus/Diff Eq. I've taken). Calculators belong in science class, not in math class (unless you want to teach kids how to program on them, which is what I spent most of math class doing).
      • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EricFenderson (64220) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @07:27PM (#12763346)

        Unless it's applied, most higher math doesn't require a calculator

        I couldn't disagree more. I have a BS in mathematics and the more math I do, the more I need a calculator. Why? Very simple - as one gets into higher math and begins to think more abstractly, one wants to worry less and less about numbers.

        While many mathematicians don't need them becuase they have gotten very good at arithmetic, this isn't true of all of us. I'm laughably bad at arithmetic and have struggled with it most of my life. But calculators let me overcome that.

        Saying that mathematics doesn't need calculators because they should be able to do it by hand is like saying astronomers don't need automatic telescopes because they should be able to observe by hand.

        • Re:Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

          by JohnsonWax (195390) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @08:33PM (#12763915)
          Unless it's applied, most higher math doesn't require a calculator

          I couldn't disagree more. I have a BS in mathematics and the more math I do, the more I need a calculator. Why? Very simple - as one gets into higher math and begins to think more abstractly, one wants to worry less and less about numbers.

          While many mathematicians don't need them becuase they have gotten very good at arithmetic, this isn't true of all of us. I'm laughably bad at arithmetic and have struggled with it most of my life. But calculators let me overcome that.

          Saying that mathematics doesn't need calculators because they should be able to do it by hand is like saying astronomers don't need automatic telescopes because they should be able to observe by hand.


          But you're not *learning* math when you need your calculator. You're just solving a problem.

          I have a B.S. in math as well, and there wasn't a single time that I needed a calculator learning math. I also have a B.S. in physics and a lot of the time I didn't need a calculator then either. In fact, I had physics instructors that would deliberately give out problems that would overload calculators of the time to reinforce the basic algebraic solutions to the problems. Turns out solving the problem algebraically often times is faster than punching in the numbers and you always get a more accurate answer - no rounding.

          So, astronomers don't need automatic telescopes to LEARN astronomy, only to make it faster when they need to do it. But they damn well better know how to track a star if the damn thing breaks.

          Calculators don't let you get past the first stage of learning - basic resitation of facts: 88 * 112 = 9856. It doesn't allow you to understand what is at work there, to see different ways of solving the problem, to teach others, to develop new ways of doing it. How many calculator students would know to just turn that into (100 -12) * (100 + 12) which is easy to do in your head if you recognize that it solves as 100*100 - 12*12? The arithmetic you've known since 2nd grade and the algebra since 8th grade, but anything much beyond 12*12 and even a lot of 800 SAT winners will reach for their HP.

          The problem for even mathematicians is that the calculators make us lazy too. While we're caught up in differential geometry, we start to forget how easy it is to spot a middle-school math problem.
          • Re:Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

            by EricFenderson (64220)

            But you're not *learning* math when you need your calculator. You're just solving a problem.

            Isn't that what math is about? The details are far less important than the ability to analyze a problem a solve it.

            I have a B.S. in math as well, and there wasn't a single time that I needed a calculator learning math.

            Well, it's fine if arithmetic is your strength. Everyone has different strengths. But it's not one of mine. Sure I understand counting, number bases, divisibility, etc. But I'm bad and inac

      • Re:Not really (Score:3, Interesting)

        by oostevo (736441)
        That's very untrue for Differential Equations. Most of the differential equations that exist can't be solved by analytical methods (i.e., you can't use calculus to get a pretty analytical solution to it). Many of those unsolvable problems, though, can be solved numerically - i.e. using computers to get numerical solutions at certain points. I'd really like to see you try to do such a thing by hand with no calculator or computer. (Before you say "but you don't learn that sort of math in school!" I'm takin
  • As I understand from the article, this calculater is aimed at these school kids, so if HP wants schools to actively assist in the marketing for these things, they'd better cooperate. Speaking of which, can't they design calculators to be a bit more.. well.. "hip", e.g. like an ipod?
    • Aside from the fact that the article says TI and not HP (blame editors now), HP has been trying to make their calculators flashier. The HP32C replacement (can't remember the model) looks like Mechagodzilla's codpiece. Sadly, They Don't Make 'em Like They Used To (tm). The old brown (or dark green for the 48G* models), hard plastic clicky key machines of yore are gone, to be replaced by membrane keys and gold paint.
    • What's more hip than a postfix-notation calculator?
  • A flaw? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by guardiangod (880192)
    A 12-year-old discovered that by pressing two keys at once, the calculators will convert decimals to fractions.

    You sure it is a flaw? Sounds more like a hidden function by a bored programmer to me. Also, what's wrong with the fraction function? My Casio FX-260 S Calculator that I used in ~grade also has a fraction function. No one ever complain about that :/
    • What's wrong with the fraction function?

      Nothing unless you are being tested on fractions.

      A kid who can't add 3/5 + 5/6 without a calculator will have a hard time solving for x in this equation when he gets to algebra.

      x/5 + 2x/3 = 13

    • First, it's not a "hidden function" so much as a deliberately removed function. Second, the only thing "wrong" with it is that the curriculum chosen by the schools in question inspired them to request said deliberate removal of the function.

      The whole thing seems quite silly to me, but what the article is really about is a product that was "made to specification" turning out to have not been made completely to specification. The interesting implication here is that crippleware can often be un-crippled i

    • Re:A flaw? (Score:3, Informative)

      by marcansoft (727665)

      Actually it seems to me like the engineers figured out "aha, we'll just remove the key" and not realize that (due to the way the keyboard is wired up and the way the software scans it) it is possible to make it think you pressed other keys. I figure they wanted to save themselves the hassle of changing the controller chip design, or they were just lazy or too stupid.

      1 2
      | |
      A-B-3
      | |
      C-D-4
      | |

      Take a keyscanning algorith that works scanning left-to-right columns and up-to-down rows, that decodes the fi

  • i dont get it... (Score:3, Informative)

    by zxnos (813588) <zxnoss@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:29PM (#12762717)
    ...if they have to do know how to do it by hand, why do they even have a calculator available during the test. back in the olden days (90's) we had to take an exam w/o calculators to prove compentency before we could use them in class.
  • Actually, it is TI, not HP.

    And they are recalling 160,000 calculators, not 11,000. .. if only they had used the original TI-30 [datamath.org]
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:30PM (#12762732)
    Why do they even allow the use of electronics on those tests? Dump the electronics and focus on testing the real skills.

    If you have the skills, then using a calculator makes you faster.

    If all you have is the knowledge of where the key to press is, then you won't be able to check your work.
    • by Raul654 (453029) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:48PM (#12762916) Homepage
      In my undergraduate electromagnetics class, the professor was adamant that he would never allow calculators on his exams, but he'd generiously allow anyone to use a slide rule (assuming we could find them and learn how to operate them).
      • Me too... (Score:3, Funny)

        by FhnuZoag (875558)
        In my old school, there was a rule where we had to clear the memories of our calculators before each exam. Presumeably, it's in case we invented some fractal compression algorithm that allowed us to store all our lecture notes as a 10-digit signed number.
        • by pla (258480) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @09:43PM (#12764388) Journal
          Presumeably, it's in case we invented some fractal compression algorithm that allowed us to store all our lecture notes as a 10-digit signed number.

          I take it this happened before the days of modern graphing calculators?

          My physics and calc classes let us use our calculators (I had an original TI-85, overclocked via the capacitor removal trick, of course), and you can quite easily fit the formulae needed for six courses in 32k of memory...

          Of course, that made me wonder why they didn't just let us do the tests open-book - To which, I discovered the answer that most professors give you test questions that come straight from the unassigned chapter questions (the better ones will actually change the numbers, but still the same question).

          I couldn't, however, fit six classes worth of chapter questions in 32k of memory.


          And for the record - This didn't count as cheating. The math and (real)science professors realized we could store massive amounts of info in our calculators, and just didn't care.

          But boy-oh-boy did my intro to cultural anthrpology prof look at me funny when I pulled out a calculator... ;-)
      • I took a physics exam using a sliderule a few years back, when the HP48's batteries gave out about 15 mins into it (d'oh!). The monitor didn't recognize it and challenged me, luckily the professor was older and did. I think he got a chuckle out of it too :-)

        No, I won't comment on why I had the sliderule in my bag. There was a perfectly good reason, I assure you...
  • Old world: recall the calculators!
    New world (to which I subscribe): recall the fucking tests!
  • ruined (Score:5, Funny)

    by pintomp3 (882811) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:31PM (#12762742)
    that fat fingered 12 yr old should have kept his mouth shut. ruined for anyone else who knew but was smart enough to keep it to themself. seriously though, who is buying calculators for kids learning basic math? pretty soon, the answer to all math problems will be "press the #s on the phone that dail your favorite geek". at least that's what my fiance does.
  • As a student who was allowed to use a calculator from the sixth grade forward, I found that my ability to do simple arithmetic in my head was very much diminished. While I could do derivations and other logical functions mentally quickly, when it came to adding two-digit numbers in my head, I still struggle and use my fingers.

    This even makes my current career a pain in the ass as i have to subnet every single day.

    Students should be forced to use slide rules and pen and paper. There is no educational adv
    • I could see enforceing this through Algebra, but pushing it into Calculus might be a bit much. Unless I'm the only one who had Calc in High School.
      • by Pacifix (465793) <zorp@NOSPAm.zorpy.com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:55PM (#12763013)
        True to a point, but the TI-89 and TI-92 do symbolic algebra, so that you can ask for the integral of x^3 and it spits out x^4/4. These calculators are sold along with all the other graphing calculators. They do not help students, however. Math is like any other skill, you have to do it over and over again, and these calculators keep you from doing that. Moreover, the answers they spit out are often either in a different, but equivalent form than what the question asked. Plus, they certainly do not show work.

        However, once you're done with integral and differential calculus, they're very handy, just like a graphing or symbolic calculator is very handy after algebra. They're just tools, designed to let skilled users work more quickly. The problem is we're putting the tools into the hands of those who won't benefit from them yet. Here's your lightsaber, young padawan; now go slice people with it, don't worry about that force-factoring thing.
    • There is no EDUCATIONAL advantage, but there is a TESTING advantage, and thus more $$$ for schools. I say this, because you stated you struggled with mental mathematics because you were allowed to use a calculator -- whereas I struggled with mental mathematics because I was terrible at it, and wasn't allowed to use a calculator, so my grades and test scores suffered.

      Assuming you and I were both taught poorly and learned little, you can't do math mentally but had good test scores (benefits the school) while
  • /. News says: Maybe it's a good time to question the wisdom of issuing expensive electronics to students in the first place, though I'm sure the calculator companies would rather you didn't.

    Well, maybe it's time to reconsider if students need pencil-and-paper in a techno age that even a mobil phone has a calculator.

    Why not show them what they can achieve with the calculator rather than how to achieve what the calculator does?
    • Yes, because who really needs to understand basic math? I mean, the machines will always be there to do it for you, right? And the machines will always do everything perfectly, because there has never been any incidence of a machine operating incorrectly, so there's no need for basic math skills to check your work, or determine if the calculator's answer is even remotely reasonable.

      You can't simply create technology, forget how it works, and assume it will work forever. That's the basis for plenty of
    • Why not show them what they can achieve with the calculator rather than how to achieve what the calculator does?

      I recall a novel about a guy from today arriving to the future.

      The world had become dependant on calculators, and nobody knew the basics operations. So this guy comes, shows them how to do a square root or division, and the people were amazed at him knowing the secret knowledge. They would test his assertions on the calculators, and say "hey, it works!"

      Besides - calculators in tests are a trap
    • by MrDomino (799876) <mrdominoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @07:04PM (#12763112) Homepage

      Because mobile phones and calculators aren't as fast or as accurate, and they can cause some serious damage to the mind.

      Seriously, while we can't all be expected to multiply massive numbers in our heads and find arbitrary roots of numbers mentally, the more math we can do without resorting to pulling out an external tool, the better. Good mental math techniques have beaten out calculators---with the overhead of punching in the numbers and making sure you didn't make a mistake, to say nothing of having to dig through a pocket or a purse and pull the thing out, then in the case of a mobile phone flip through all of the menus to get to the calculator application---time and time again. Further, mental math is much less error-prone; if you're working on an external device, it is very easy to press the wrong operator and come up with a completely screwed answer, or worse, to press a wrong number and wind up with something that sounds reasonable but is in fact off. Regardless of how good human interface gets, nothing that depends on human input will ever beat the speed of human thought, and calculators invariably add another point of failure to the process.

      Even aside from that, knowing "how to achieve what the calculator does" is fundamentally important in understanding higher-math concepts. You might be able to commit to memory that performing x function on y set of numbers yields z result, but if you never fully grok why that result is yielded, then your understanding will be severely limited. The commitment to memory of compartmentalized and seemingly unrelated facts and figures, despite being so overused by primary and secondary schooling systems in most civilized countries, is an inefficient tool compared to concept learning, and will ultimately lead to a society of people utterly incapable of innovation for lack of awareness of the why behind any of the many hows that they have memorized.

      In short, calculators provide no benefit over a strong set of mental tools in any of the tasks to which they are set until after the completion of at least secondary-level education, they stunt the mind, and they ultimately contribute to society's decline. Using a calculator for things that are genuinely too difficult to do by head is fine, and indeed the mathematical community stands to benefit from results yielded by calculators, but for things as fundamental as what they are used for in most current school systems (addition, multiplication, division, subtraction, et al), calculators are not only pointless but harmful.

  • Simple plan! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by peacefinder (469349) * <alan...dewitt@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:32PM (#12762756) Journal
    1) Have a portion of the test allow calculator use, and a portion of the test not allow calculator use.
    2) Make sure the fraction stage was in correct part of the test.
    3) Ummm... Privatize?

    (By the way, TFA says TI, not HP.)
  • Expensive? (Score:4, Funny)

    by MushMouth (5650) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:34PM (#12762785) Homepage
    They were $8.00 each.
  • by StressGuy (472374) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:34PM (#12762788)
    Seriously, what motivation is there to return a device in exchange for one with less functionality? How do they expect this "recall" to work? Would any of you send your calculator back?

    just asking
  • Flaw? (Score:3, Funny)

    by centauri (217890) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:35PM (#12762796) Homepage
    It sounds like an undisclosed feature, not a flaw.
  • Hello? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:35PM (#12762800) Homepage Journal
    Why in the fuck would someone return anything because it worked too well?

    It reminds me of that 200 mpg car urban legend.

    LK
  • by ironicsky (569792)
    The education system in some places is pure crap.

    In my junior high/high school years(7-12) We rarely got to use calculators. Even in our pre-calculus course, if we got caught using a calculator during a test, exam or inclass assignment we were as good as failed.

    This wasn't decades ago, I graduated 2002.

    People shouldnt rely on calculators to do simple math like fractions.
  • I found back in middle school that you could do some strange stuff with the solar TI calculators if you starved them of light until they almost shut off, and then uncover the solar panels (works best while the calculator is busy computing 69!). Most of the time, the calculator would lock up with garbage on the display or simply shut off. But sometimes it would come back - but with the layout of a simular model (like the TI-30 would suddenly be a TI-30 STAT). Other times, it would enter modes not found on
  • The state is issuing calculators? Man, I need to move to Virginia and enroll in grade 6. This [ti.com] is a much better calculator than my current one.
  • by aaronl (43811) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:44PM (#12762878) Homepage
    If we're lucky, perhaps this sort of problem will inspire someone to take a look at exactly how tech is used in the classroom. Giving kids calculators and computers and etc. seems like a good idea. However, while it is important that kids learn how to use technology, it's much more important that they can do these things without it.

    When I was in school, I remember thinking how cool it was that I could use a calculator in 9th grade math. Then after trying to use one, not only did I find that I could do it faster without it, but that I learned the math better. I carried that attitude through calculus, and I'm very glad that I did.

    Now we have a generation of kids that can't do basic math, can't spell, and don't know grammer. What a great help that tech has been for them in school! All the teaching aids in the world don't turn a bad teacher into someone that can educate your children. Don't let elementary school kids write papers on the computer, they don't get handwriting, spelling, or grammer practice. They just learn the computer will fix it for them. Don't let them use calculators for their math, because they just learn that calculators will do math for them, so they don't need to know it.

    There is a proper way to use these things in the classroom. A word processor in English class is wrong, just as a calculator is in basic math class. Once you get to a Lit class or advanced math, the tools are useful in teaching more effectively.

    Also, Someone mentioned log books in another post as being a shortcut tool. So are sliderules, but try doing logs sanely without one or the other. What you learned to use logs for was a shortcut to doing long-hand division and multiplications... after you learned how to do that math anyway.
  • The actual electronics of a ti-89 will fit perfectly well in a ti-83+ case (at least this worked with the old black models, I don't know about the new translucent ones). You have to re-learn what some of the keys are, since the labels will be off, but overall, it's an easy way to sneak the most powerful calculator available into standardized tests that ban it. It's not too difficult to write an assembler program that emulates the ti-83 home screen on the ti-89, if you are extra paranoid. I wonder if I co
  • flaw in the headline should have been written as "flaw" in my opinion, because what they are talking about is not a flaw as such. It is a "flaw." See the difference?
  • Funny that this story should pop up about a calculator that will automatically convert a decimal representation into a fraction. I was trying to address this very issue yesterday, only in slightly different form.

    Basically, given a fractional value between 0 and 1, find two integers whose ratio most closely approximates the fractional value, and which will fit in a given bit width. This sort of thing is useful when trying to compute the integer coefficients to stuff into the registers of a PLL clock gene

  • You know there is a kid out there that will figure out how to reconnect the disabled buttons, or swap the logic board from a regular 30xa into the case of the special version. Instant fraction satisfaction.
  • I would like to kick the person who is in charge of Texas Instruments calculators in the genitals repeatedly. These damned things haven't increased in processing power, display or anything to warrant the price that they get for these damned things. They do the same thing they did 10 years ago and they haven't dropped in price.
  • It's an impressive school system if the math problems given to kids 14 years are so difficult that you need a calculator for it.

    I didn't need one (nor get one) until I was thought physics and chemistry where they have all these weird kind of not-so-easy-to-add/substract/multiply/divide values.
  • I'd rather hire someone who knows how to convert decimals to fractions and how to use a calculator than a kid who depends on the calculator.

    If tests allow calculators, all they test is the financial ability of students to buy calculators.
  • Yet more knee-jerk editorialism from the editors. From the summary:

    Maybe it's a good time to question the wisdom of issuing expensive electronics to students in the first place

    The calculator shown in TFA looks a lot like the TI30XA. It's listed on Amazon at $10 [amazon.com]. And you can bet the school district got a volume discount. So expensive? Hardly.

    Misinformed editorialism aside, I tthink it's great that they're giving middle school kids calculators. By that time they should (emphasis on "should") be we

  • I TA college mathematics courses and it is quite clear that by the time students are in college they are convinced mathematics is just about blindly memorizing algorithmic routines. Nothing could be further from the case and I don't think it is a coincedence that many math grad students are horribly doing arithmetic. I for one almost failed 2nd grade because I couldn't do my multiplication tables fast and accurately enough (I thought it was a waste of time to memorize this stuff and I was right)

    Learning to do things *efficently* by hand (as you would in a standardized test) does not really give understanding. Instead the students should be asked to reason about the process of changing decimals into fractions or heck just teach them basic logic instead. Spending time drilling algorithms into their heads that they can always just turn to calculators to do anyway is a real waste of time and turns kids off math and science.

    Besides, knowledge of the algorithm is easy once you have understanding. However, not only does this empahsis on rote learning waste time it actually seems to give kids a mental block to real understanding. By the time these kids reach college they expect that courses (or at least math courses) will be just rote learning. Not only do they expect it but they will flounder if this safe pattern is broken making it nearly impossible to teach anything but rote facts. Indeed the students will usually prefer a huge amount of memorization to something requiring real understanding.
  • TI... ...IP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CyberVenom (697959) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @07:35PM (#12763437)
    Am I the only one here who saw this as another twisted hacking story?
    The kid discovered that by pressing two keys at once he was able to trigger a function which had been intentionally removed from the key matrix. How is this any different than any other sort of frowned-upon reverse engineering? Sure he was "only 12" so maybe it's "cute" and "using his head", but what happens when he turns 18 and discovers that he can use a Sharpie on a CD, or a hex-editor on an application? Suddenly he is no longer a hero, but a villan... I mean for *$%^-sake, TI actually sent him a graphing calculator for free... When was they last time TI sent the Linux/BSD wireless chipset hackers a free Prism dev kit Hell, even just the fscking manual would be nice.
    It's this double standard $%^& that really irks me.
  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @07:36PM (#12763454)
    Well, even if they fix the flaw, moat standardized tests give you series of multiple choice answers so you can color in a dot and a machine can grade it. so, rather than actually do the math, all you have to do is check all the choices and pick the right one - in fat, they may be faster than actually doing the math; that's why some GMAT prep books recommend it (at least they did with the old paper tests). The answers were even in numerical order, so yo did the middle choice, then went up or down depending on the result (like a half interval search). The problem is not in the calculator, it's in the test format.

    One problem with calculators is that students believe the results and never bother to see if they make sense. I graded papers for an engineering class, I was amazed how many students thought because you get 8 digits in the calculator that the result is that precise; or would get impossible answers (because of a math error) and write them down. They never developed a sense about the calculation, couldn't estimate to check results and relied on the calculator for the answer. You see this in the inability to give change if you add a coin to the payment amount after they've rung it up; or when they try to give you your twenty back along with 17 dollars because they entered 50 instead of twenty for cash tendered.

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