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Unscientific Poll: Calculators Subtract From Thinking Skills

We asked for your opinions, and found more critics than supporters of using calculators in school. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Recently we asked how you feel about calculators in school. We heard from about thirty people in twelve countries, including a large number of Chinese.

Turbo Zhang writes: "My brain is rusting. Why? Because I use calculators everywhere, on my mobile phone, on my computer, etc. New technology makes us use everything except our brain."

Joony Zhu says calculators can provide us with an answer, but we may not understand it completely. And a student at an architectural and engineering college in China, Zhao Jing-tao, calls using a calculator "a kind of laziness."

Critics of using calculators in school, at least until high school or university, outnumbered supporters two to one.

Khaled Hamza in Cairo says "calculators affect badly on the thinking ways of students." Jose Gudino from Mexico City says this is because "you don't need to make an effort to get a result."

Hemin, a math teacher in Kurdistan-Iraq, says good math skills help in life. So he believes in solving problems with a pencil until high school.

Randy Bin Lin, a Ph.D. candidate from China at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, writes: "You should work out problems with some kind of pain without computers. Then you may come to appreciate the power of these sophisticated machines."

Abbas from Iran, now living in Sweden, says it is good to use your brain because calculators are not always available. "Last week I met a university student who could not subtract six from forty and used a calculator," says Abbas.

But He Wenbo from China says calculators reduce careless mistakes. And Yang Linwei, an eleventh grader from China, says: "When I was young we couldn't use calculators. But when I entered high school we have to solve a lot of math problems. We have to use a calculator. It makes my homework easier."

From Burkina Faso, Compaore Tewende Michel writes: "I can say that the handheld calculator has been important in my studies and even in my life."

And Barnabas Nyaaba in Ghana advises that "as we enjoy the use of calculators, let's be careful so that it does not have any bad effects on us."

Finally, Thomas, a student in China, says he likes using electronic calculators in school. But he wanted to tell us about what he called a special calculator which he does not know how to use. He even sent us a picture of this special -- and, in fact, ancient -- calculator. In English we call it an abacus.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Steve Ember.