As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan of a basic calculators for computational purposes. I think everyone should have a device (that isn’t a computer program) to do the basic math with. As we continue in the world full of computers, I think we are losing the ability to manipulate basic math. Which is not the end of the world because we do have computers who can do the math for us. However, I think we need to make sure the lack of confidence with arithmetic doesn’t evolve into a fear of arithmetic. I think a basic calculator within easy reach can help solve the problems of both doing and fearing arithmetic.
Lets consider an example. Say I need buttons for a girl scout event. I want to buy 16 buttons and I found some for $.53 each and some for $.64 each, but I think the cheaper shipping might make the more expensive buttons cheaper. The relevant part of this example is that the computations are not my main goal. I think computations for their own sakes is the goal of 1% of the population. Everyone else wants to do something with the numbers after we have them! So we need to find ways to complete the math we need done for our goals with minimal mistakes and hassle of these mathematical details.
Having a separate calculator allows me to calculate the details on the side, physically. I think, mentally, a hand-held calculator reduces the stress of having to complete that calculation to get my work done. To rearrange my computer screen to see all the right information and to type it into my computer program makes the calculation a lot of work comparatively. It also makes the calculation physiologically more intimidating. I am saying, “this needs my full attention so I will open a new program on my computer just to handle this math stuff.” I know people who open Excel in order to add a string of 5 numbers. Excel is a total overkill for stuff like that. Having a calculator within easy reach is an important tool to keep the math anxiety to a minimum. Then I can just grab my calculator, punch a couple numbers in, and return to my computer task/phonecall/whatever, without spending a lot of time making the calculation the ‘hardest’ part of the process. It’s like a note pad to scribble your first draft on. Don’t let the arithematic take over your process, it’s mostly just brainstorming with numbers so keep it off to side where it belongs.