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which London preps / pre-preps do NOT let DCs use a calculator?

(9 Posts)
sanam2010 Mon 13-May-13 13:23:28

I was recently visiting friends with a 9 year old DC in a top London prep school (not the very top but a very good one) and when the question of what is 27 - 14 came up, she started looking for her calculator. When I told her to tell me without using the calculator, she started guessing ("12? 10?"). I was so shocked. Why did she even have a calculator? Am I expected to pay £15k per year for five years and by the end of it my children can't even do simple maths exercises in their head?

It didn't even occur to me to ask detailed questions on how they teach and do maths during school visits, but now I want to know from every school at what age they introduce the calculator. Are there any preps that insist on pure mental maths, no calculators? Maybe Hill House? Please tell me there is at least one!

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 13-May-13 13:26:53

Outside London, but above average prep no calculators till mid year 6 and still a minimum of 1 hour mental maths per week.

bluescissors Mon 13-May-13 15:01:51

My DS was only allowed a calc in yr7 and 8 and then only for the calc paper preparation for common entrance. PM me if you want to know which school!

timmytoes Mon 13-May-13 15:39:06

The Common Entrance exam at 13 plus has a non calculator paper and a calculator paper . Both must be taken and thus at my Ds's school they start using calculators for some maths questions midway through year 6 . The questions that require a calculator are typically statistical such as calculation of means etc.

trinity0097 Mon 13-May-13 17:18:00

I am a head of maths in a (non London) prep school. Our yr 3 children start to use calculators, however this is to check their work and instantly mark it where appropriate, not at the expense of mental maths skills. By yr 5, I may use a calculator in an are lesson if they are having to multiply decimals which they are not mathematically able to do yet, but can do the concept of finding the area of a rectangle. In yr 6 we start to teach about circles, so a calculator is needed to calculate with Pi.

A blanket I want a school where they don't use calculators statement doesn't take into account how we might use them in school for the benefit of the child.

Many children do not like being quizzed on maths questions, I can often freeze when put on the spot and I teach maths and have a degree in it!

sanam2010 Mon 13-May-13 20:45:07

trinity, thanks for sharing a teacher's / head of maths' perspective. I still think if you had a goal of emphasising mental maths, you could do away with the calculator completely very easily:
- for checking work, either the teacher checks it, you give them a solution manual, you have them check each other's work, you go through it together as a class, or you teach them mental strategies for checking (such as Jakow Trachtenberg's strategies)
- for multiplying decimals if they are not ready to do it - if they haven't learnt how to do it you could pose the problems in a way that doesn't require multiplying decimals (I don't see why you would pose a problem that they haven't learnt to do mentally) or you teach them how to multiply decimals. It's very easy, the same as multiplying any number, you just teach the one rule there is for where to set the dot, very simple!
- in year 6, when you cover circles, you can either have them express the area as a function of pi, or you teach the approximation by the fraction 22/7
I guess it's alright to introduce it slowly in year 5 or 6 if you are absolutely sure the kids are all up to speed with their number bonds and time tables but it really worries me that out of convenience calculators are introduced too early and then you will miss clear gaps in your pupils' knowledge.
Your point about freezing under pressure is true of course, although I think this should only set in at a certain level of difficulty, and I felt this question was easy enough that one should be able to answer it even under pressure. I am telling you this also because I recruit summer interns for my company, and we constantly have maths graduates from RG units who can't work out mental calculations like 35 squared or estimate the square root of 75, and they come with top grades in maths but have no idea of how to use common sense or mental maths to estimate answers. If you introduce a calculator too early, you rob pupils of the opportunity to develop this confidence with mental maths.

AlienAttack Mon 13-May-13 22:13:34

This seems really strange. My DD. ( in y1 in a state primary in London) is starting to learn how to add and subtract (mentally) any number below 20. For example, 19 + 18 or 19- 12. Children are "partitioning" to do this and many are able to do this without error already. It does not seem unreasonable that within the next year they will be able to do sums like the OP's example of 27-14. And I repeat, they are yr 1 now.

sanam2010 Tue 14-May-13 02:53:02

AlienAttack, exactly, it's so simple that I would think any 6 or 7 year old can do it. But what if by year 4 or 5 they forget how to do it again bc they always reach for the calculator first?

sanam2010 Wed 15-May-13 12:09:38

Would love to hear from mums at other pre-preps / preps.

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