Martha, age 18, is about to be finished high school. Receiving a 504 Plan in high school, Martha is eagerly anticipating attending college. She comes in to see me for an assessment to help determine what accommodations she may continue to need.
As part of the assessment battery, Martha is asked to complete a page of math calculations. Able to perform some of the basic algebraic problems, Martha struggles with lower level skills such as two digit multiplication (e.g., 29 X 57) and two digit into three digit division (e.g., 451 divided by 22).
While trying to perform these calculations, Martha looks at me blankly. “I can’t do these without a calculator,” she tells me.
I hear this lot from kids I evaluate.
It does appear that for many children the use of the calculator has diminished their capacity to perform certain tasks.
In a similar vein, I hear parents being told when they raise concerns about their child’s poor spelling skills, “Why bother with spelling. They can always use spell check.”
For many children, fundamental skills are difficult to acquire. Such skills take a great deal of practice over time to be internalized and mastered. When a child has difficulty acquiring these skills they should provide some accommodation. Not all will learn at the same pace and some will need much more repetition over time with sensible instruction.
Simply being told not to worry about these skills is questionable practice and one that may be doing them a disservice.
Finding the balance in all of the accommodations and use of technology we are providing kids is the constant challenge and one not easily answered.
There is no doubt that certain skills become lost over time when not used. It’s astounding to me that my wife and I don’t even know our own kids cell phone numbers.
Why bother when they’re easily stored in memory and all you have to do is push a button!