Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Cost of Calculators

Before calculators, if we spotted a zero as one of the multipliers, we thought something along the lines of: “Woohoo! Less work for me!”  With today’s students a multiplier of zero barely registers. I swear I have had this exact conversation with multiple students:

Student:  (busily using a calculator to multiply a long string of numbers)
Me:  Sweetie, STOP.
Student:  (looks up)
Me:  There’s a zero in there.
Student:  Huh?
Me:  All of those numbers you are multiplying.  One of them is a zero.
Student:  Ok.  (goes back to multiplying)
Me:  STOP.
Student:  (looks up)
Me:  If you multiply something by zero what do you get?
Student:  (long pause)  Zero?
Me:  Exactly!
Student (gives me a look that says plainly, “And that applies to my life, how?”)
Me:  So you are going to multiply along and get some number. You are going to multiply that number by this zero. You will get zero.  You will multiply that zero by this number and get zero, and so on.  What will you have at the end?
Student:  Zero?
Me:  So write it down, and MOVE ON!

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