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The Calculator Argument

Once upon a time, two mathematicians, Cal Q. Late and Tommy Go Figure, were having a argument, really.

"Calculators are terrific math tools," said one of the mathematicians.

"I agree, but they shouldn't be used in the classroom" said the other.

"But?" asked Tommy Go Figure, and this is when the argument started. "That is just crazy!  I agree that having a calculator to use is a convenience, but it does not replace knowing how to do something on your own with your own brain."

"Why should kids have to learn how to do something that they don't have to do, something that a calculator can always be used for?" Cal Q. Late argued.

Tommy retorted,  "Why should kids not have the advantage of knowing how to do math?  To me, a calculator is like having to carry an extra brain around in their pockets.  What if they had to do some figuring and did not have their calculators with them?  Or what if the batteries were dead? (Here's a good reason for solar calculators.) What about that?"

Cal reminded Tommy, "No one is ever in that much of a rush. Doing math computation is rarely an emergency situation. Having to wait to get a new battery would seem to take less time than all the time it would take to learn and practice how to do math. That takes years to do, years that kids could spend doing much more interesting things in math."

"Look," Tommy went on, exasperated, "kids need to depend on themselves to do jobs. Using a calculator is not bad, but it should not be the only way kids can do computation. It just doesn't make sense."

Cal would not budge in the argument. "The calculator is an important math tool. When you do a job, it makes sense to use the best tool there is to to that job. If you have a pencil sharpener, you don't use a knife to sharpen a pencil. If you are in a hurry, you don't walk; you go by car. You don't walk just because it is the way people used to travel long ago."

"Aha!" answered Tommy. "Walking is still useful. Just because we have cars, we don't discourage kids from learning how to walk. That is a ridiculous argument."

This argument went on and one and on...and to this day, it has not been resolved. So kids are still learning how to compute and do math with their brains, while some are also learning how to use calculators.  What about you?  Which mathematician, Cal Q. Late or Tommy Go Figure, do you agree with?


Of course, this argument was made up, but it is very much like the argument schools and teachers are having about what to do with kids and calculators. What do you think?  Leave your comment for others to read.

A Go Figure Debut for a South African Who Is New!

Liezel's TPT Store
Since my husband teaches science on the middle school level, I thought this week, I would feature a science teacher. After all, science and math are closely related because both content areas rely on a similar problem-solving approach and tools such as observation, comparison, measurement, and communication. Even some big ideas are the same: change (function), systems, and classification. Let's meet Liezel who graduated from the University of Stellenbosch (in South Africa) with a B.Sc. in Biochemistry.

Liezel has taught in the UK as well as South Africa. At the moment, she is teaching at a Cambridge International School in the beautiful Garden Route in South Africa. She loves creating new and interesting resources. Her students always joke that she should have been a primary school teacher since she is always adding clip art, borders, etc. to everything! (I do, too – even on the college level.) Currently, she teaches biology, chemistry and physics from grades 7-12 (AS levels - the equivalent of grades 12 and 13 here in the U.S.)

She loves creative, interactive lessons, and as a scientist, she tries to do as much lab work with her students as possible. She also loves to read! She is a mother to a gorgeous two year old “princess” and an eight year old Jack Russel Terrier.

Liezel's store is called The Lab which is a very suitable name for a science teacher. She currently has 65 resources in her store, five of which are free. These reasonably priced resources are appropriate for high school as well as middle school. Her store features interactive notebooks, task cards, crossword puzzles, and much, much more.

FREE Resource
One of Liezel's interactive science notebook activities is a free resource on plant cell structure and function. The students are given an outline of a plant cell, and then they are to cut out the provided labels and then place the functions in the correct place.

My husband has downloaded this free resource and uses it as a review activity. He says it is a different way for his 8th graders to practice and go over vocabulary.

Just $2.00
Liezel also has an interesting product for $2.00 entitled Physics Formulae Flash Cards.  It is a set of 14 flash cards to help in the review of various Physics Formulae. Included in this resource are 14 flash cards (4 on a page) plus two blank cards for any extra formulas you wish to add. Liezel punches a hole in each card and then has her students keep them on a key ring to use for reviewing.

Now that you know more about The Lab, why not head on over to her store and welcome her?  While you are there, you might check out what she has as well as become one of her followers.  OR follow her on Facebook: and Instagram: @thelab_by_liezelpienaar  I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to reviewing more of Liezel's unique products!

Conducting Effective Parent/Teacher Conferences

If you are like most teachers, you are preparing for your first round of parent/teacher conferences. Now that I teach on the college level, this is one activity I currently don't have to do, but when I did, I really did enjoy them. Why? Because I was prepared with more than just the student's grades. Here are some of the ways I got ready.

First, in preparing for parent/teacher conferences, what can you do on a daily basis? Is the conference based on simply talking about grades or are there additional items that need discussing? How can an observation be specific without offending the parent or guardian? How is it possible to remember everything?

I kept a clipboard in my classroom on which were taped five 6” x 8” file cards so they overlapped - something like you see in the two pictures above. Each week, I tired to evaluate five students, writing at least two observations for each child on the cards. At the end of the week, the file cards were removed and placed into the children's folders. The next week, four different students were chosen to be evaluated. In this way, I did not feel overwhelmed, and had time to really concentrate on a small group of children. By the end of 4-5 weeks, each child in the class had been observed at least twice. By the end of the year, every child had been observed at least eight different times.

Below are sample observations which might appear on the cards.


Mary Kay

 Likes to work alone; shy and withdrawn;  wears a great deal of make-up.

 She has a good self concept and is  friendly. Her preferred learning style is  visual based on the modality survey.



 Leader, at times domineering, likes to  play games where money is involved.

 His preferred learning style is auditory  (from the modality survey). He can be a  “bully,” especially in competitive games.  He tends to use aggressive language with  those who are not considered athletic.

Checklist for P/T Conferences
By the time the first parent/teacher conferences rolled around, I had at least two observations for each child. This allowed me to share specific things (besides grades) with the parents/guardians. As the year progressed, more observations were added; so, that a parent/guardian as well as myself could readily see progress in not only grades, but in a student's behavior and social skills. The cards were also an easy reference for filling out the paperwork for a 504 plan or an IEP (Individual Education Plan). As a result of utilizing the cards, I learned pertinent and important facts related to the whole child which in turn created an effective and relevant parent/teacher conference.

To keep the conference on the right track, I also created a checklist to use during parent/teacher conferences.  It featured nine characteristics listed in a brief, succinct checklist form. During conferences, this guide allowed me to have specific items to talk about besides grades. Some of the characteristics included were study skills and organization, response to assignments, class attitude, inquiry skills, etc. Since other teachers at my school were always asking to use it, I rewrote it and placed it in my TPT store. It is available for only $1.95, and I guarantee it will keep your conferences flowing and your parents focused! When you have time, check it out!