Students get to use a calculator during their examinations soon after they have reached high school/ secondary school. The sole purpose of not allowing students in primary school years to use a calculator during their math exams is because it is crucial to know the basic fundamentals of mathematics calculation without the help of a calculator. A calculator is needed in higher education as it helps students to perform more complex calculations that can be easily performed on the calculator. Hence, in this article, we will explore some maths calculator skills that students should possess to up their games in their maths exams.
Is a calculator helpful for students?
According to a study by UCL Institue of Education (IOE) and Universit of Nottingham academics, children’s mathematics skills are not harmed by using calculators in classrooms.
Instead, having maths calculator skills can help to boost students’ calculation skills and maths abilities.
Calculators can be very effective for developing non-calculator computation skills. Students become better at arithmetic and can self-regulate their use of calculators, consequently making less but better use of them.
7 Maths Calculator Skills
Assuming you are a high school student, who uses one of the more advanced calculators, here are a few maths calculator skills that you may or may not already know which can be super useful during your math examinations.
Though not all the calculators have the same functions, you will have to cycle through some of the functions available on your calculator to find out. However, here are a few of the maths calculator skills you will definitely find handy for you during your maths examinations.
1 – Storing of values
This is one of the most basic functions that all scientific calculators can perform. Storing values in your calculator can help you to reuse values for maximum accuracy and prevent you from making mistakes. It also helps you to double-check your values in case you have miswritten them in your exam scripts.
2 – Converting from polar to rectangular form
One of the topics we learned in high school is Polar and Rectangular forms. They are coordinates but written in two different forms. The conversion from one to the other is not super tedious but the process can be sped up with the help of a calculator. Additionally, you can perform the four operations using the calculator. You can only perform addition and subtraction in rectangular form and multiplication and division in polar form.
3 – Using table mode to plot a graph
This function may not be applicable to all calculators, some calculators may offer this function. Hence, you can search up your calculator model on youtube and search for tutorials on how to use table mode for plotting a graph.
Having this function indeed helps you to save time manually calculating one point by one point. All you have to do is key in the equation of the line and the points. Then you will be able to retrieve the x coordinates that you need to complete the plotting of your graph.
Here is a YouTube tutorial for calculator model Casio FX991ES on plotting a graph.
4 – Using statistics mode to find the mean, variance, and standard deviation
Students who study statistics in their high school will know these three important keywords in statistics. To perform any hypothesis, you will need to know at least one or two of these three given a distribution. Hence, did you know that you can find the mean, variance, and standard deviation when you are given a distribution? Your calculator might just be able to give you a hand with this. Some scientific calculators can find the mean, variance, and standard deviation if you give it the distribution of values. Students can use this as a way to double-check if they have calculated the values correctly.
5 – Matrix calculations
This function should be present in the majority of scientific calculators these days. Matrix calculations are one of the most tedious calculations students learn in high school. Therefore, knowing how to use the calculator for your matrix problems will help you to save time on tedious calculations. Not only so, but having a calculator to do the matrix calculations for you can reduce the chances of making any careless mistakes while doing it manually!
Though the downside of using the calculator for the matrix is once you key in the wrong value for one of the matrices, then your matrix calculations might be unsolvable or wrong. Students will have to double-check the values they key in to avoid having such mistakes.
6 – Numerical systems calculations
If you are a student taking advanced mathematics then you will need to learn the topic of numerical methods, where you solve a series of differential equations using various methods. The numerical methods taught in the chapter are long and tedious to complete and solve. Though it is a sure score problem for the majority of the students, calculations need to be performed carefully to avoid any careless mistakes in between in order to score a full mark. Hence, the probability of you making careless mistakes can be lowered if you use a scientific calculator to perform the calculations.
Here’s a YouTube tutorial on how to perform Runge Kutta on your calculator:
7 – Solving simultaneous equations
Some of the maths calculator skills listed here are great for helping students to solve questions in examinations. Many students in high school will already be familiar with solving simultaneous equations. Moreover, there are a handful of students who can solve them in less than 5 minutes. After the completion of your paper, you can perform some of the functions on your calculator to help you double-check your answers. Here’s a tutorial on how to do it: