### Sign of the times

I’ve bemoaned my students’ inability to do simple mathematics many times on these pages; I’ll spare you a rerun. Suffice it to say that by and large, my younger students - all of whom are less than a decade my junior - have been weaned on calculators, and consequently, an appalling number of them can’t multiply integers or add fractions in their heads, or even on paper.

What has surprised me is the number of students who have expressed to me that they feel cheated by their education. I’ve had a good half dozen students tell me that they wish they had not been given calculators so early. “If I hadn’t been allowed to use a calculator at such a young age, I would be able to multiply simple fractions together and add double-digit numbers,” said one student in what has become a typical conversation. “It’s ridiculous - and students today are allowed using calculators while they’re learning to add!”

But then she continued, in all seriousness: “I think that students shouldn’t be allowed to use calculators in math class until *at least* grade four.”