…then, my son said, “Dad, I need it for my standardized exams.”
“OK, this is very important”, I thought.
We rushed to the store and there it was – sight – a 120-something dollars calculator.
“This is the one, dad”, my son said.
“Yes, there it is” and another sight loudly erupted.
“What’s the matter?” my high-schooler replied.
I don’t remember the exact words. However, it was a long reply…
This “famous” calculator is an ancient device made by a respected US company, and it has been the big “technological breakthrough” for the last 20-year (or more). Yes, 20 years! Not getting the joke… Well, let’s see. Today, a cell phone, a laptop or any other electronic devices become obsolete in a few years. So do calculators. Yet, after 20 years+, we have to buy this antique for over $120. When reading this piece, you might think, this is not a great amount of money anyway. Well, depends on your perspective and your income. First, this device has the computing power of a cheap cell phone, if not less. Second, many families in the US should be expending that money in proper clothing for their kids and not in a calculator. Thirdly, the same company producing these calculator-saurus offers a newer version which has a 40,000% higher computing power and 100,000% more storage memory for a price that is less than 40% more. Also, this new version produces 3D graphics – which would be great for students and the calculator-saurus can’t. So, my question is: why is this happening? Isn’t this, in a way, deceiving or cheating?
I am really against the fact that many families feel forced to make this purchase. So, what are the alternatives? Many students have cell phones and apps that can produce math graphics are available for free. So, why not to use them? Also, the price of a desktop computer can be – in our times – as little as $500. This means that four families could come together and provide a computer for the combined price they will pay for the calculator-saurus. Of course, this will implies that teaching would be done in groups – which is a growing practice any way with a lot of benefits – where computers are share by students and these computers are sold by the parent to the next year parents for the kids. This is a job that the PTA could coordinate. This cycle, of course, can be perpetuated for a few years, until the computers become obsolete. However, it will provide student with a better tool for learning.
The last problem to solve is the standardized test. How will students have a calcu-saurus to work with during the test? Well, students from previous years could sell, donate or facilitate access to those calculators they were forced to buy and certainly are catching dust somewhere...
and so it was. I went on and on ... After all this, my son was looking at me with his eyes very widely opened. Poor guy, he had to listen to my loud complaint. Then, he asked me: “So, if these devices are so old and archaic, why are they so expensive?” and without letting me answer, he replied: “Is it because they are going to be sold any way because they are required for the test?”… You can imagine what happened… yes, I just got more energy.. However, that will be matter for another article…