Calculator Policy

August 16, 2000

1. The use of hand-held calculators is usually to be allowed when students take tests in 1xxx and 2xxx level courses.

2. In courses numbered 1272 or lower, only scientific calculators may be used in tests.  A scientific calculator is one that can calculate the values of the standard algebraic and transcendental functions, but cannot display graphs of functions or do symbolic manipulation.  (These cost about $15.  They can be readily recognized because they have a "one-line" display.)

3. In courses numbered 1282 or higher, it is not recommended to set upper limits on the type of calculators to be used in tests.  Math 1281, 1282, 1371, 1372, 2373, 2374 are specifically designed so that the students must have graphing calculators.  Calculators that can do symbolic manipulation are allowed but not required.

4. The course chair and other lecturers should design examinations and procedures for administering them so that students with powerful calculators will not obtain significant advantages.  The following possibilities are suggested:

    a. Designing exam problems to minimize the advantages obtained by students who use calculators for symbolic manipulation.  In particular, in 2xxx level courses, the general emphasis should be on the ability to set up problems (e.g., setting up a surface integral or switching the order of integration in a multiple integral) rather than on the ability to do extensive calculations by hand.

    b. Giving open book tests so that there will not be an advantage to using calculators for text storage.

    c. Taking appropriate measures to discourage the use of calculators for communication with other students taking the exam.  This can include randomly making slight variations of some problems on different copies of the exam.

5. It is recognized that, even in higher level courses, basic pencil-and-paper skills may be important (e.g., finding the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of a 2x2 matrix).  Thus, it would be appropriate to give one or two midterm exams where calculators are not allowed.  Alternatively, so-called gateway exams can be used to test such skills.  It is also acceptable not to allow calculators on a portion of the final exam, such as on the machine-graded portion.

6. The calculator policy for the course must be included in the course syllabus, and it must be uniform among all of the lecturers.  The course chair should make his/her syllabus available to the other lecturers so that they can copy this policy into their syllabi.  If there will be different policies for different exams, the details must be included in the syllabus.

7. It is appropriate that the course chair recommend the most suitable kind of calculator for the course, but it is not appropriate to require students to buy a specific brand of calculator.

8. It is important that the calculator issue be handled uniformly within each course. Deviations from any of the policies stated above should be discussed with the DUGS.