Why you should teach calculator use in technical training

Apprentices need to use calculators during technical training and in final exams, but calculator user manuals are usually overwhelmingly long and complex. It is unlikely that apprentices with weak Essential Skills can learn to use the calculator from the manual.

During technical training, instructors should integrate teaching using Red Seal-approved scientific calculators. It is easier for apprentices to learn to locate and apply their trade’s useful functions by watching demonstrations and to have lots of practice with them. It is also better for apprentices to familiarize themselves with the calculator they will use in apprenticeship and Red Seal exams while in school rather than in the high-pressure atmosphere of an examination.

Apprentices who have ample opportunity to practice using the scientific calculator increase accuracy by not making calculation errors. For example, math operations with fractions are time-consuming and take many steps when done manually, but are very quick and accurate when the fraction key is used. Learners can progress to using Store and Recall functions to eliminate data entry and number transposition errors.

Learning the correct sequence of data entry involves observing and practicing the use of certain functions such as square root and trigonometry functions. Scientific calculators are programmed to follow the rules of BEDMAS (order of operations) but there are limitations. Users must enter the numbers correctly to avoid an Error message or calculation error.

Using a document camera such as ELMO and a projector, instructors can demonstrate the use of a function step by step while apprentices repeat the actions and check results on their own calculators. It is advisable to use the eraser end of a pencil to press keys for precision and to not impair the view.  

Apprentices benefit from instruction on how to use the calculator and from practice during technical training in order to build confidence and decrease the likelihood of errors during exams.

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