Plus and minus of calculators


Madam, – Well over 40 years ago, as a lecturer in economics at Trinity College Dublin, I circulated a set of formulae with the statistics exam papers. I also permitted the use of calculators at examinations. When more sophisticated calculators became available, it was a requirement that all working should be shown, and not just the final answer. The intention was to test each student’s knowledge of the subject, and not to emphasise the ability to memorise formulae nor to require tedious and repetitive mathematical calculations.

Some colleagues were not happy with my approach, although the use of log tables and slide rules was already allowed. Students, however, did not revolt.

I was therefore very pleased to learn that formulae and calculators are now acceptable in State mathematics and other examinations. It is to be regretted that some objections have been raised to these developments. I wonder whether there is some adjective to describe such persons along the lines of “Luddite” in another context. – Yours, etc,


Somerby Road,


Co Wicklow.