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Are They Necessary?

Posted on 4 March 1999

The following text was written by Shane Burgess:

I have talked with many fellow classmates and college professors about using graphing calculators. Some of the questions I asked were as simple as "which one should I get?" and some were as complex as how to use specific functions on a certain calculator. But, if a class really doesn't need a graphing calculator, and the instructor doesn't support their use in a class, then they may just get in the way. Especially if the user is playing games during class time.

Most of the math instructors at the community college I attend require the use of graphing calculators. This is great, for it has been proven that when graphing calculators are in the curriculum, they do indeed help the students understand the necessary concepts faster and more efficiently. They are a tool, a very powerful tool, and they should not be abused.

Graphing Calculators were designed to help students grasp the concepts of Algebra, Algebra II, and other graphing concepts. Even though they are capable of playing games, that is not what they were meant for. Playing games while in a class will be distraction, a disturbance to others, and slow done the lesson for the class. Many instructors are aware of the fact graphing calculators can play games, and they won't allow them for the lesson or for the entire class. This is not what we want to happen.

Graphing calculators are an essential tool for learning difficult concepts. I applaud the teachers that feel as strong as I do about them. If a student is only playing games on their calculator, then maybe they should have the privilige of using a calculator taken away. That's correct, using a graphing calculator is a privilige, not a right. A student can fight and moan about losing their calculator, but if they were misusing the "tool" then it is fair.

Graphing calculator games are great and a lot of fun. It is okay to have them on the calculator, but to avoid any possible conflicts, try to follow these general guidlines:

  • DO NOT play games during a lecture or during an important lesson. No matter how boring.
  • Use the calculator only when the instructor allows. If the instructor says no calculators, then put the calculator(s) away.
  • Spend more time taking notes by hand and listening to the instructor during lectures. If you use your calculator to take notes, then type them up after class. It can be a distraction to others if you are "flaunting" your calculator to take notes.
  • If you are in a class that doesn't require graphing calculators as part of the lesson, PUT IT AWAY!! Again, this can be a distraction for the user and the surrounding people.
  • If you must play games, play them when you have the time. If you have a test to study for, save the games for later. Wait until you have the time.
  • Graphing calculators are tools. Respect that, and if necessary, remove the games if they are getting to be too much of a distraction. Use the calculator for what it was intended.

  Reply to this item

Re: Are They Necessary?
Lewk Account Info

I have an idea that would solve any controversy. Let the kid do whatever the heck he (or she) wants and if he flunks then flunk him! As far as I'm concerned it is the student's decision weither or not he want to do good.

Reply to this comment    2 April 2004, 23:53 GMT


Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Dan M  Account Info
(Web Page)

I would agree. If they're stupid enough to play games in class they won't understand the concepts and fail. No point on wasting time on idiots.

Reply to this comment    15 September 2005, 00:59 GMT

Re: Are They Necessary?
m85476585  Account Info

I think my teacher knows people play games on calculators, but she says "Don't push buttons like that, it breaks the calculator" then takes it.

Reply to this comment    19 January 2005, 22:57 GMT

Re: Are They Necessary?
WheelchairMadman  Account Info

they should be able to if the want to flunk, but dont do what i do and make games on the teachers calculators. lol one time i seen my teacher actually "inadvertently" played a crappy keep away game i made . (all it did was have a "0" chase you around and you were an "x" and had to keep away.)

Reply to this comment    21 January 2006, 06:30 GMT


Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Intel-ectual Account Info

lol I made a game just like that in BASIC once... I was the X and the 0 chased me and I ran over !'s and ?'s for points hehe. It even had difficulty levels... just thought it was funny that someone else was bored enough once to make that same game =p

My teachers make games themselves sometimes... there's an AP Cal teacher at my school I had last year who had all kinds of stuff on hers

Reply to this comment    7 October 2006, 23:36 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Intel-ectual Account Info

However, I do feel the same way about games in class. It is almost impossible to pay attention if you are playing games. However, I feel that if the studend does choose to play with the calculator instead of paying attention in class, he/she should simply be allowed to fail. It's the student's fault for not paying attention or even trying to.

Reply to this comment    7 October 2006, 23:38 GMT

Re: Are They Necessary?
Olathe  Account Info
(Web Page)

School's sole purpose is to ensure that students have basic skills needed throughout life. Therefore, a student's sole responsiblities in school are to ensure that they learn those basic skills and that they do not interfere when others try to learn those.

If a student knows a subject well enough to score in the high nineties, that student has fulfilled their obligation to learn the basic skill taught in the subject. It is not that student's responsibility to make the teacher feel falsely important.

If a student plays games on a calculator during class AND gets high test scores, there is no reasonable proof that that person cheats, has a low IQ, or is uninterested in the subject or learning in general.

Though calculators are not produced for games, it is not immoral or unethical to use them for games. For proof, look at spinoffs. The word spinoff means something that is used for some useful purpose other that its original purpose, and there are many useful spinoffs.

Games are not a waste of time. People play games (such as tag, football, DOOM, etc.) from very early in their lives until the end of their lives, because they are enjoyable.

Games are not a waste of resources. Empty space is much more a waste of usable memory than a game. If the space is really needed for something else, a game can be removed. The time used by the processor would not have been used for any useful purpose, leading to a waste of the processor. The batteries are the only thing that may be considered wasted. However, these batteries may be replaced for a cost lower than that of playing games in an arcade, which actually ends up saving money.

It is not a responsibility of a student to help the world image of US students by scoring higher on tests that actually mean very little. If self-image is really important, note that the US invents and produces most important high tech devices and applications, as it has done for the past few centuries. Some examples are automobiles, several spinoffs of automobiles, manned flight, transistors, televisions, nearly all types of radio equipment, nearly all types of telephone equipment, computers, nearly all computer operating systems, TCP/IP, nearly all other computer networking systems. Do I need to continue ?

If you have a logical reason for disagreement, please respond with that reason. Please do not reply with something along the lines of "shutup you stupid idiot, that's the stupidest thing I ever heard" or "I ought to kill you [or your computer]." I will simply ignore this (unless it is followed by valid points). Any person who uses only ad hominems and threats apparently has no actual reasons for believing what they say and has bad reasoning skills.

Reply to this comment    19 August 1999, 08:13 GMT


Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Earl  Account Info

I Agree with the things you said, like about how school is meant for learning ,and also that Games for calculators are not a waste of memory/battery. Well where I live my parents would probably let me play on my calc instead of the arcade cause I normally spend like almost 5.00-10.00 and as far as Triple A Batteries go (especially duracell ultra) i could spend the same amount of money at the arcade and buy batteries. But which one would last longer, the calculator. and that my calculator freinds is the reason why so many computer websites are dedicated to ti's calculators (mainly the TI-83 Plus And The TI-89.
But i am telling you the truth and my honest opinon, if you want to remove games from calculators, so be it but my games will remain on my calculator and you people have no control over that :). and that is my honest truthful opinon. Like back to the subject, I know my parents would much rather buy me calculator batts (cause I game on it alot and i use duracell ultra :) . And they do not like to waste money at arcades (even though ms. pacman is fun) i still like calculators games better!

Reply to this comment    21 June 2005, 10:49 GMT

Re: Are They Necessary?
bluey424  Account Info

A calculator is a tool but that doesn't mean that putting games on it is "evil". I've spent hours and hours just sitting at my desk waiting for everyone else to finish their work, why shouldn't i be able to play a quick game of Tetris?

Reply to this comment    6 September 1999, 05:51 GMT

Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Gavin M. Northey  Account Info
(Web Page)

I don't believe that the author meant that using a calculator to play games is evil.

What the author mant was that games are not to be played during class. Just because a student has a 4.0 or better doens't mean that it is right either. Take this for example, you work in an office, you complete your duties for the morning, nad surpass all expectations for quality. Since you will not get anymore work for another hour, you start up tetris. Sure you turn off the sound, but you still cause a distraction. This could be applied to almost any work environment (where you're in a group), similar to school. Likewise, using a calculator to play games will be noticed by other students, and therefore could be destracting.

I will disagree with the author on one point. THere is reasonable use for taking notes on a calculator. While keboards (relased this fall) could create excessive noise if used by everyone, I believe there is practical use in the class room. First, I encourage students to avoid the use of a calculator unless there is specific need for a typing device. I will say that I will be using the new TI Keyboard this fall as soon as it is released. I have received privellege to do so under a 504 Plan (these are gauranteed to students with disabilities via the ADA).

I find that as calculators evolved with more tools for productivity, we ought to consider them, and adopt all the good options. I also encourage options for entertainment. THe author is correct overall, the calculator must be used responsibly.

Reply to this comment    13 July 2002, 07:21 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
return_0 Account Info

In addition, new calculators like the TI-Nspire series feature easier-to-use keyboards and built-in notes applications that are not distracting.

Reply to this comment    4 July 2012, 15:00 GMT

Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Will Flanagan  Account Info

I agree 100% with you. I do very well in school and tend to finish my tests and quizzes early, I have some games on my calculator, but if I'm in a class where they don't want me to play it, I won't.

Reply to this comment    13 March 2003, 12:14 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
ChaosTheory101 Account Info

I agree that calculators are a very useful tool that can be a distraction. But I have a 4.8 GPA and tend to finish tests a lot faster than most other students. I feel that if the teacher has not assigned any other work, or you have finished that work, that it is perfectly acceptable to play games on your calculator rather than sit there staring at the ceiling. At the very least, you're improving your hand-eye coordination. I've been asked many times to put my calculator away during such times, and even though I don't agree with it, I will, and won't use the calculator in the class from then on unless neccesary.

I think the moral of the story is, as long as you don't have anything else to do it is fine to play games. But if asked to put it away, do so. Otherwise you can ruin the privelage of calculators for a lot of other people.

Reply to this comment    4 December 2003, 04:33 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Damien1247 Account Info

Ok personall i disagree with games in class. I spend my time instead progming the calc but if people who are doing well want to play games in class by all means let them. If the fools who make up the rest of the class want to pay attention to them and not the teacher its their own fault.

Reply to this comment    22 June 2004, 02:49 GMT


Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Steven Ford  Account Info

>>putting games on it is "evil"

BLASPHEMY!!!!!!!!!!

Reply to this comment    9 February 2006, 03:10 GMT

Re: Are They Necessary?
Derrick  Account Info
(Web Page)

Ok, I really don't understand why this guy that wrote this article is really anti-calc games. I usually play my on my calc during all my boring classes but so far my GPA is a 3.97. I even had a 100 average in my pre-ap geomotry class and thats the class I play my games the most. I think that its about the person playing the games that is doing bad in a class is what we should be con against, not the genius in the back of the class bored out of his mind playing a game of Galaxian on his calc.

- Derrick


P.S. - Get Blocked In for the 86. It's a cool game but hasn't got the credit it deserves.

Reply to this comment    5 October 1999, 03:59 GMT


Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Fishexe  Account Info
(Web Page)

What's the deal w/ the GPA bit? I've got a semi-poor GPA because I don't always do all my homework. I have trouble concentrating. Sorry. I understand the frickin' material already. It shows up on the tests. The teachers know I pay attention because I often raise my hand to make intelligent comments and participate in discussions...I used to do this even while playing calc games at the same time. I currently don't have any games on my calc due to family politics and my becoming increasingly busy with work and school, but I still program and I still do other stuff in class. Like I work on math in German class. Or designing operating systems in English. While simultaneously participating in class discussion. And I do well on the tests (unless I have a really bad psychomotor epileptic seizure, but that's a diff. story for a diff. day := )

Reply to this comment    15 October 1999, 08:25 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
gruntman  Account Info

I have a pretty high GPA, too, and I play my SE all of the time, including while the teacher is on her soap box (which I know is not right), but I'd like to say that alot of people that don;t know how to use them use the program editor to store information to cheat on tests! Teachers are aware of it, too, and some won't allow us to even bring one to class! That gives us all a bad rap for those that actually know how to use the calculator. Other students complain about how software like Symbolic (kudos to Detached Solutions on that) gives us an unfair advantage, but what about the people that use them for "cheat sheets"? What about them? Because of them, we lose our tools that we know how to use, and that my frineds, is not right. :(

Reply to this comment    6 February 2003, 02:40 GMT

Re: Are They Necessary?
Kian Cochrane  Account Info

You are a dumbass!!! The worst thing that playing games on your TI calc can do is bring down your percentage from a 100% to a 90%. both of these grades are A's, so does it really matter whether you play or not?

P.S. I know what you are thinking. You're thinking that if you get a 90% instead of a 100%, your class rank will be lower, and you will get an A- instead of an A+. Only dumbass schools still use class rank and +,- modifiers! Since only dumbass students attend dumbass schools, what does that say about anyone who tries to complain?

Reply to this comment    22 October 1999, 23:02 GMT

Grading Scales
Jude M.  Account Info
(Web Page)

Not all grading scales are 10 points per letter. At the school I attend, most aren't. If you want to call me or my school a dumbass or something similar, feel free to, but be aware that my school is one of the best in the country ( www.catholichigh.org ).
I do agree that it doesn't matter if you make an A a few percentage points lower than perfect. Ultimately, it doesn't matter, even to colleges and universities. I tend to make medium-low As myself.

Reply to this comment    1 August 2001, 08:24 GMT


Re: Grading Scales
Steven Ford  Account Info

yea, last yer they graded everything as a 1,2,3, or 4
25%=1=D
50%=2=C
75%=3=B
100%=4=A

those were the days, get a 7/10 and you got a B!!!

Reply to this comment    9 February 2006, 03:19 GMT

Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Frank A. Nothaft  Account Info

If a school has a higher grading scale it makes it harder to get an A. It makes people work harder

Reply to this comment    16 August 2002, 01:04 GMT

Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
Intel-ectual Account Info

I agree with the other guys who posted on your comment

My school uses a grading scale where 95+ is A, 85-94B, 75-84C, 70-74D, -70F

And some people, if not you, do actually feel that class rank is important. Don't generalize about us, that's all...

Intel-ectual

Reply to this comment    7 October 2006, 23:48 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
return_0 Account Info

I agree with you. If the other poster doesn't care about doing well in class, why is he on this site? I, too, care about academics, and I happen to go to the best school in Los Angeles and have a 157+ IQ! (I don't mean to brag, I'm just making a point to the other guy that he is wrong)

Reply to this comment    4 July 2012, 15:07 GMT


Re: Re: Are They Necessary?
return_0 Account Info

You, my good sir, are a vulgar, hypocritical, careless, uneducated dumba**.

Reply to this comment    4 July 2012, 15:04 GMT

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