7.3 Calculator Use

Many educators are surprised that I don’t use a calculator to find the quadratic that fits three data points. True, the calculator will give the answer in simplified form (and the formulas we write down really do look ugly), but where’s the line for calculator use? If we are going to have calculators do one thing for us, why not have them do everything for us?


They are surprised too I do not have my students sketch quadratics with a calculator. I personally don’t see the pedagogical value in fiddling with getting the right “window size” when a quick sketch by hand resolves all issues for you. (And once you have the hand sketch, you don’t need the calculator sketch!)


And why even use calculators? Computer mathematics packages are some much easier to use and are far more powerful. Let’s use them instead. (And I actually have no objection to using them practically all the time!)


I opt for next-to-no calculator use in these notes to illustrate the point that the final answers are not the goal – the conceptual understanding and the process that leads to the final answers is far more interesting and more important. The approach I suggest here also illustrates the power of brain and hand alone, the art and power of “nutting your way” through ideas, and the joy of having the confidence to rely on your wits and find success from doing so. Wow!


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