Hand-held calculator use and achievement in mathematics: A meta-analysis
Christos Nikolaou, Georgia State University, United States
Georgia State University . Awarded
Statement of the problem. The purpose of this study was to synthesize and extract the main findings from individual primary studies on the effects of hand-held calculator use on mathematics achievement and problem-solving abilities of elementary, middle, and high school students.
Procedures. The method of meta-analysis was used to investigate the following research questions: (1) To what degree does the use of hand-held calculators in mathematics education influence achievement and problem-solving? (2) Are there relationships between calculator effectiveness and student characteristics? (3) Under what conditions is the use of hand-held calculators most effective? The procedures of a combination of Glassian meta-analysis and study-effect meta-analysis were applied. The techniques used in this meta-analysis included: (a) using objective and replicable procedures to locate individual studies; (b) coding of study features and study outcomes; and (c) using statistical methods to summarize overall findings and to examine relationships among study outcomes and features.
Results. This study reviewed 24 individual studies which had been conducted during the years from 1987 to 1999 in the area of mathematics education from elementary to high school levels. A total of 103 effect sizes were calculated. In terms of mathematics achievement, 15 studies were collected and coded while, in terms of problem-solving abilities, 9 studies were collected and coded. Of the 103 calculated effect sizes, 95 or 92% were positive while 8 or 8% were negative. The results of the present meta-analysis showed that an overall average effect size for the 24 studies was .4961 with a standard deviation of .9291.
Conclusions. Based on the results of this study, calculators clearly should be included in mathematics instruction. However, the question still remains as to how they should be used and to what extent. The use of calculators in the elementary school should be very limited so that students will not develop the false understanding that learning mathematics is reducible to pressing the appropriate buttons on an electronic device. As students progress from the elementary grades to the middle school and high school grades, they gradually should be exposed to the capabilities of calculators so that the development of their abstract thinking will not be compromised. Calculators should be viewed and utilized as tools of enhancement of the various concepts in mathematics and not as a panacea for the problems with achievement in mathematics education.
Nikolaou, C. Hand-held calculator use and achievement in mathematics: A meta-analysis. Ph.D. thesis, Georgia State University.
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