During the 2017-2018 school year, many students and teachers advocated for a program in which students could have access to graphing calculators. Graphing calculators normally cost around $150 dollars, which is a lot of money to spend on a resource that almost every math class requires. Thus, over the summer, GDS developed a program in which every student will be granted a graphing calculator.
Lee Goldman, a math teacher and one of the teachers behind the new program, explained how graphing calculators are a great teaching tool in the classroom.
“They help kids see the math and are also used on standardized tests,” she said.
But, as a high school that promotes equity and inclusion, many argue that expecting all students to carry a graphing calculator goes against these values.
“We were having trouble with the equity issue idea; for some people it’s very easy to pay [for a graphing calculator] and for some people it’s not so easy,” Goldman explained.
Goldman added that it was not only important for students to have a graphing calculator, but the idea of each student having equally good calculators was also important.
“You can buy a used or older calculator, and then you’re the kid in the room with the older calculator because you couldn’t afford the newer calculator that your neighbor sitting next to you has,” Goldman said.
The discussion about the calculator program had been occurring for several years, because teachers needed to find the right way to distribute the calculators.
“We were going to go the financial aid route, where we somehow only gave calculators to students on financial aid,” Goldman said.
That idea was subsequently problematic as some students are not on financial aid, yet spending money on a graphing calculator can still be challenging.
Academic Committee and SSC are other GDS groups that also participated in the discussions about a calculator program.
“I think we primarily talked about the program as a way for kids on financial aid to access calculators,” Anna Gunther, one of the heads of Academic Committee said. “But we also talked about the possibility of having more graphing calculators available at school for kids to borrow for a free period or a math class. We also talked more idealistically about having the school provide every student with a graphing calculator like they do with textbooks.”
Academic Committee may have spoken idealistically about providing every student with a graphing calculator, but it is now reality. On August 30th, during freshman orientation, each incoming 9th grader received a graphing calculator that they could keep for high school and onward. From now on, all ninth graders will be given a calculator every year.
“We’ve been talking a lot about the cost of being a GDS student and how to make sure that more things at GDS like sports, food vendors, clubs are available to students on financial aid,” Gunther said. “I think the calculator program should be a step towards achieving that goal.”
By Abby Brickman