Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The handheld calculator turns 40

Photo: Texas Instruments

JACKSONVILLE — An abacus can't land an acrobat in a tub of water.

No, performing such delicate equations — to figure out how to launch a diver off a moving Ferris wheel and onto another moving target — demands the precision of a graphic calculator.

That was the problem recently at hand for John Van Cleave's senior math class at Jacksonville High School. Thanks to the work of three inventors in 1967, students had push-button access to the answer.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the handheld calculator, an invention that revolutionized how kids learn math.

"If you want to multiply using pi, you can use 3.14," Van Cleave said. "But if you use the graphing calculator, you can be that much more precise.

"In the early grades they need to learn to do the arithmetic themselves. But by the time they get to me for algebra, it's much more important they know the process."

See the full story here.

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