Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Abolish Paper & Pencil Arithmetic

Let's Abolish Pencil-and-Paper Arithmetic by Anthony Ralston (Imperial College, London).  The paper appeared in Volume 18, Number 2, pp. 173-194 (1999) of the Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  (The anti-reformists will love this article!)  The article proposes that paper-and-pencil arithmetic no longer be taught in elementary school and that it be replaced by a curriculum which emphasizes mental arithmetic much more than at present and in which calculators are used for instructional purposes in all grades including kindergarten. The article analyzes and refutes the arguments made by "back-to-basics" proponents against the use of calculators and for traditional instruction in the algorithms of pencil-and-paper arithmetic. The value of mental arithmetic in achieving all the aims - and more - of the traditional curriculum is argued. Also considered is the outline of an elementary school mathematics curriculum without pencil-and-paper arithmetic. As well, the impact of such a curriculum on secondary school and college mathematics is discussed. Finally, the barriers to achieving what the article advocates are assessed.  To read the full article, click here.

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