Slaves to Machines This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Calculators - these small, simple and inexpensive computers are useful for solving everyday problems. We use them when we shop, file our taxes or have algebra homework. They are helpful when we need to find square roots in a snap or are converting measurements. Just push a few buttons and presto, the answer. There are even calculators that graph equations and find slope and intersection points. I admit calculators work wonders, but more frequently, I see their overuse.

People use calculators for all mathematical operations, even those we were taught in elementary school. I have seen someone use a calculator to add 63 and 48! By the time the answer appeared, the person's little brother had figured it out himself. Is it really easier to push buttons than to think?

Once we learn to push buttons, do we forget how to multiply and divide? Have we all become lazy? If the batteries die during a test will we have to tell the teacher we can't finish?

So great has our dependence on the calculator become that we are enslaved to its computing powers. We are living a less dramatic version of "The Matrix." Calculators are probably laughing at how easily we fell under their power in addition to how panicked we get without them. Perhaps they choose not always to work correctly so they can hear us moan. Or maybe they pity us and our futile attempts to use mathematics: "Poor humans. They have lost their ability to think and are helpless without us."

But even slaves have a breaking point. We still have time before we are completely dependent on machines. We can start by clearing the cobwebs from our craniums. Math problems of large numerical amounts may seem daunting, but we can find shortcuts. For example, if you had to multiply 28 by seven, you can multiply 20 by seven and eight by seven, and then add the two together. Or if you want variety, you can multiply 30 by seven, and then subtract from the answer, two times seven. Do we need calculators? No, we need to keep looking for the ways to prove how simple math can be. We don't have to like math, but we do need to be competent in solving simple operations.

With our rediscovered skills, we can prepare ourselves for those challenges. Don't panic, and remind yourself that you won't be conquered by a machine. You will have the calculator follow your commands and not let the calculator convince you to use the "easy" way. It's okay to use a calculator for those occasional complex problems, but our brains are fine for the more frequent smaller ones. Besides, we already have one that we'll always have on hand.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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