Technology is great, but it’s making us dumb…

On our Facebook page, we just shared an article about a new app for calculating fractions created by a 12-year-old girl and her father.  After sharing, I reread it and then moved on to the comments and was a little surprised to see the backlash:

Technology is great, but it’s making us dumb

and

Her father might be a FORMER computer geek, but he’s definitely NOT a good educator.

and my favorite

If you go to some were other than the doller store to buy a caculator you can find a half dozen differant modles that do this allready. That being said this kid needs to learn how to do fractions the old way with pencil and paper.

I’m not one to nitpick spelling errors ~ but I’m pretty sure that’s more than just typos.

Just because we were subjected to hours of times tables, flash cards, scan-tron testing, and strictly forbidden a calculator during math ~ does that make us “superior” to the current generation?  Does it make them “dumb” for utilizing calculators or creating apps that reduce the amount time spent on increasingly complex calculations?  We all know that our 4th grade teacher lied when he or she said that we had to memorize because we wouldn’t always have a calculator with us:

IMG_1031

If using a calculator is “dumbing us down” ~ then why does the word “Neanderthal” carry such a negative connotation?  Here’s a guy who fashioned tools, hunted/processed/cooked his own food, made his own shelter, and defended his home with weapons ~ all by hand.  Wouldn’t every innovation that came after be considered “dumbing us down”?  Are automobiles, grocery stores, and clothing shoppes contributing the severe decline in mental prowess?  Perhaps a case should be made for embracing technology and it’s ability to establish new means of interaction, saving time, and expanding ways to be creative.

I applaud this father and recognize him as a “good educator”.  What a fortunate girl to have someone in her life encourage her ingenuity.  Apparently, I’m not the only one to think so ~ the app has over a million downloads and is the second highest rated app in all categories.

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5 comments on “Technology is great, but it’s making us dumb…

  1. As a former high school science teacher, I can just say one thing — 80% of the kids I taught could barely do third grade math. Try teaching balancing chemical equations, proportions, etc. to kids that can’t convert 1/2 to 0.5 without a calculator. The naysayers may say “Well, who says these kids will need what they learn in 10th grade chemistry?” But the reality is, balancing equations and limiting reactants is no different to a line cook trying to figure out how many meals he can make on the fly with a limited amount of ingredients left before closing time. It’s a way of training the brain that no calculator can claim fame to.

    There’s an intuition that makes us the intelligent human beings that we are that I really feel is being dropped out of the “traditional” classroom environment. I also think that it feeds the undisciplined need for instant gratification that we are seeing with many young people in the up and coming generation. Before I sound like I’m an old lady or a hypocrite, I’m only 28, so I am on the tail-end of the generation that I speak of and I am guilty at times of the traits that I speak of. I was also homeschooled for many years, partly because the math I was being taught in general education was utter garbage of short-cuts…kind of like someone thinking they are fluent in Spanish just because they can say “si” or “hola!”

    Thanks for letting me share. 🙂 I appreciate it.

    • Thanks for commenting.

      80% of the kids I taught could barely do third grade math. Try teaching balancing chemical equations, proportions, etc. to kids that can’t convert 1/2 to 0.5 without a calculator.

      Why can’t they use a calculator? It’s equivalent to saying, “I can’t teach my son how to make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich because he doesn’t know how to thresh wheat.”

      By the way, our accountant uses a calculator. I don’t consider her to have an “undisciplined need for instant gratification”.

      • I consider it more like “it’s okay, don’t bother making the peanut butter sandwich or putting in the effort to put the parts together, here it is for you, pre-made without the need to think about the process of making it!” rather than threshing wheat. After all, a math problem in a calculator is feeding you the whole answer, not all of the parts required to put it together. If it weren’t for people learning the actual mechanics of math, many things we take for granted wouldn’t exist, like telecommunications.

        Accountants, along with engineers, the medical profession, contractors, etc. need a higher level of precision and accuracy because there’s money, personal, and professional liability involved. Managing a million dollar corporate account with many variables on a regular basis is slightly different to figuring out 1 divided by 2 by a 15 year old. I think you know that too… 🙂

        I’d love to write more about this, but I have a fractured wrist and this is not helping matters any 🙂

  2. Understanding the maths involved is great. It is also not a necessity. Most people won’t have a need for more than calculator math in their lives. But what that girl learned – REALLY learned, not just regurgitating a formula onto a test – was that maths have a real-world application, that she can identify a problem and come up with a resolution, that there are people out there who know things like higher math and programming and engineering and all those things can help her solve her problems. I’d say she learned a lot more of value in this one interchange with her dad than a whole year of doing fractions on paper could possibly have taught her about the uses and applications of real-world math. It’s just the sort of thing that might inspire a young girl to choose a math major, if you ask me!

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