This is going to be a super quick post and I would LOVE some feedback here and/or over on the twitter (where you can find me @mrdardy)
I am one of three teachers of Geometry at my small school and I am also the chair of our department. I feel that the three of us ought to have pretty similar policies to make life feel a little more unified and fair to our students. I have opted in the past to keep most of Geometry calculator free. I feel that this is one of the last opportunities to try and help firm up some number sense and some self reliance with minor calculations. I also encourage my kiddos to leave answers like the square root of 160 as a final answer or even something like ‘the sum of the first 98 natural numbers would be the number of handshakes’ to help offset any anxiety about calculations beating my students down. I also place very little emphasis, pointwise, on arithmetic mistakes. One of my colleagues pretty vigorously disagrees and feels that having a calculator by their side eases pressure, and is simply a more realistic way to approach life for her students. I find myself questioning my decision here since I do not restrict calculator usage in general in my other classes. I do, however, worry a bit about all of this since I am hearing pretty consistently from recent alums that they head off to college and are not permitted to use calculators in their freshman classes. My recent Calculus students report this very consistently, they take freshman Calculus at college without a calculator. I know that there are all sorts of reasonable arguments that we should not make high school decisions based on college realities. I also know that I am hearing back from a small group of students.
So, I guess all of this rambling is really about one thing – Give me advice! Let me know how you approach this question. Does it depend on the level of the class? Is it a departmental decision? A school or district policy? Am I simply holding on to some quaint idea that mental arithmetic really matters? I fear that I am not being coherent or consistent in how I think about this issue. HELP!