Today, I’m going to share my opinion on something that I seriously hope is not offensive or argumentative. Over the last five years, I have spent a lot of time in upper elementary classrooms. I’ve played two roles, a special education teacher and a general education teacher. Regardless of my role, my opinion has remained the same. At the elementary level, a calculator accommodation is really not necessary. Despite that last statement, I’ve noticed that we tend to throw that accommodation to nearly all students with an IEP.
Good question! Often times, I’ve heard teachers justify (or for you special education teachers writing IEPs—rationale) the calculator accommodation because a student(s) doesn’t know his or her math facts. While I can totally relate to the lack of math fact mastery, that is honestly not enough (in my opinion) to justify providing a calculator to a student.
According to Accommodation Solutions Online, calculators should be used for students who have difficulty processing information at the same rate as their peers, but only when “math calculations are required but are not an essential learning objective“.
In upper elementary, math calculations ARE the essential learning objectives. For the majority of the school year, upper elementary students are learning about multiplication, division, decimals, and fractions. We ARE teaching math calculations. Because of that, I honestly believe that we should leave the calculators to middle school students, who aren’t focusing on learning and mastering computation.
I prefer to utilize an accommodation that allows a student to access his or her own resource. You might need to do a little researching with your special education department or curriculum director, but I have found that this accommodation is accepted. Students are allowed create their own resource, such as a list of math facts, to be later used to complete basic math computation. Check out my FB Live, where I detailed how I use this in my classroom! You can also click the image above to grab this FREEBIE! 🙂
I really love using this accommodation, because my students are still required to LEARN the process of basic computation. It may take my students a little while to complete a lengthy multiplication or division problem, but they are able to independently work through and understand the process.
If you’re looking to help your students master math facts at their own pace, try my Mastering Math Facts for Addition and Multiplication!