Date of Award

2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Jack Bana

Abstract

The main aim of this study was to determine how well students used their calculators to obtain the correct answer to a problem (effective calculator use). The study has also considered whether students used their calculators as efficiently as possible, in order to answer questions expediently (efficient calculator use). This research made use of a Calculator Computation Test and Answer Sheet which was used for checking the accuracy of subjects' answers as well as recording which keys they pressed to obtain their answer. These were developed for the study. The subjects were drawn from Years 8, 9 and 10 of a suburban senior high school. In addition to the above instruments the researcher interviewed twelve of the 141 subjects involved in the study after the completion of the Calculator Computation Test. In considering how effectively students were able to use a four-function calculator the students in the study rated very poorly. Students were unable to use the calculator well, made many errors in the use of the calculator and also did not know of all the functions which the calculator had. In terms of efficient calculator use, of the items which students answered correctly, 63% were answered in a highly efficient way by students and this is encouraging. The concern is that still 37% of the time students were spending too much time trying to work out how to use their calculator in order to answer a question at all. Another question which this study aimed to address was whether there was a significant difference between gender and calculator use. It was found that at Year 8 level the females scored lower on the test, although the difference was not significant. At Year 9 level there was no significant difference and at Year 10 level the males scored significantly lower. The way in which students used and reacted to calculators was very interesting. During interview some students made comments which alerted the researcher to how they viewed their calculators. Some students were willing to believe any answer which the calculator offered, and this was evident from comments like: 'I just feed it into my calculator' and 'I just let my calculator do it'. However, other students were more sceptical and questioned the validity of the answer, as was apparent when hearing comments like 'Did I get it wrong?', and having asked how the student knew an answer was right to hear the reply, 'I normally do it twice'. Some students relied heavily on their calculators, while others did not use them, as shown by comments like, 'I just figure it out in my head'. The results of this research showed that there is much to be done in the area of curriculum development for the explicit teaching of the use of four-function calculators. There are also questions which have evolved as a result of this research that suggest the need for further research in this area.

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