I stumbled across this post today [via Joanne Jacobs] on how widespread early calculator use affects later academic performance. [Hint: it’s not good.] My post-partum memory is fuzzy, but I seem to recall not using calculators regularly until my college statistics class. In fact, I still have my trusty TI-36X from that class and still use it. [I’ve since sold the TI-81 that I used in calculus.] I always enjoyed calculating in my head — I remember working at San Francisco Street Bakery in college, and I’d keep running tabs for folks as they picked out their items and would announce their total to them before I even got to the cash register. Cheap fun. Heh.
I’ve been reviewing different math curricula lately — there’s a fairly wide variety of approaches out there, but my gut tells me that tried-and-true like Saxon or Singapore Math is what most effectively teaches math competence. [The girls who babysit for us — and who are homeschooled — use Saxon.] One thing I like about them is that they discourage calculator use.