Problem Solving Problems This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Problem Solving Problems

by Brendan A., Lisle, IL Quick, what's 18 times 7? I'll give you a minute. If you don't know, blame it on a little place called Texas. Sure, Texas is the home of barbecue, cowboys and dude ranches. But it also has produced some of the darkest days in history.

And I'm not talking about the Alamo. I am referring to a certain Texas Instrument - the calculator. The obsession with using a calculator has infected us to the point of lunacy. In fact, the first words out of a math teacher's mouth on exam day are, "You may use a calculator." It's almost reached the point that we don't even need a pencil and scratch paper.

As convenient as this pocket toy may be, it is actually destroying us. We are losing (well, some have already lost) the ability to add and subtract in our head. We are losing the power to think. And the disease is multiplying. Recently, two certain standardized exams (whose three letter abbreviations, both ending with "T") have changed their policies. They now allow calculators on the math portions of their exams.

Great. So I can punch a few numbers and fill in the correct oval. Do I get to go to Stanford?

Since we are so addicted to these egregious contraptions, I suggest that we drop math altogether as a course. What's the point? Just change it to Functions of a Calculator 101. And trust me, the calcu-craze stretches much farther than the classroom. Last week, I spotted a customer at a local supermarket filling out his check, and inside his checkbook was a checkbook calculator. What is this guy doing? Finding the natural log of his balance? Raising his purchase total to the third power? I mean, is it really that complicated to subtract a couple of numbers in your head? I guess so.

I don't think it's laziness. It's incapability and that frightens me. Houston, do we have a problem? I think so. Well, now you won't have any trouble adding up the scores of your precious college football bowl games. Just remember: when a team scores a touchdown, use the 7 key. Unless they miss the extra point. But that involves a tricky formula that I don't have time to explain.

Hey, maybe you could keep track of your Houston Rockets' record with your scientific adding machine. You, too, Dallas. Then again, the Dallas Mavericks rarely win more games in a season than can be counted on my left foot.

But don't put anything past us. Pretty soon we'll be teaching first-graders to count their fingers on a calculator.

A wise man once said, "Don't use calculators. The habit will wreck you, and you will unlearn math completely." I agree - probably because I'm the wise guy who said it. Calculators are only the first step to a downward spiral. And I haven't even mentioned computers yet!

Computer technology is advancing faster than we can multiply by zero (on a calculator, of course). Buy a computer and you will need to upgrade by noon. Pretty soon (probably by six), computers will do all our homework.

Pretty soon, school will be obsolete. Pretty soon, the word "think" will be removed from the dictionary, and we will be reduced to walking rhubarbs, moseying indecisively around like drunken mules. Uttering incoherent sentence fragments, we will argue over things like the color of an evergreen.

As we digress, life will enter the homestretch of its circular path. And we'll all return to cavemen once again.

And it will all be Texas' fault. Oh, by the way - 18 times 7? 126.


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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