It’s easy to fall into the trip with trying to use the latest technology in the classroom. But, I think it’s better to **begin with a specific need, and then find the best tool that meets that need**.

In other words, rather than saying “what can I do with these iPads,” it’s better to ask “what will help my students to **__**.”

### Multiplying By Decimals

In this example, **I want students to develop curiosity about multiplying by decimals**.

At this point, **they don’t know how to do the calculation**. And I don’t want them to get bogged down in the steps. Instead, I want them to **see the big picture and ask interesting questions**.

The perfect tool for this is a plain old calculator. It will handle the calculations for them, **so their minds are freed up to see beyond the numbers**.

Bonuses: no need to check out iPads, deal with software, worry about wifi, or avoid district internet filters.

### One To Many

No need to give a calculator to every student. **In this exploration, we want kids sharing their tools.**

This sets up discussion and conflict. I’d recommend one calculator per group of three students.

Yes, instead of some pipe-dream of 1:1 iPads, we’re only need a single goofy calculator for every three students.

Don’t use more technology than is necessary!

### Set Up A Pattern

Give groups a set of problems which will **create an interesting pattern**. Set the stage for students to make some (secretly) planned discoveries.

Remember, **students do not know how to multiply with decimals by hand yet**. They’re just using their calculators and looking for patterns.

- 8 × 3 = ___
- 8 × 2 = ___
- 8 × 1 = ___
- 8 × 0.5 = ___
- 8 × 0.25 = ___

If you ask them to look for patterns, your students may notice things like:

- multiplying by smaller numbers makes a smaller product
- multiplying by a decimal gives a product less than the original number
- sometimes multiplying by a decimal results in a decimal, and sometimes it doesn’t

This is interesting thinking!

### The Roaming Helper

Your job during this time isn’t to instruct. Instead, you’ll roam around, troubleshooting, encouraging, and even confusing (yes, you can be a meddler in the middle)!

- Troubleshoot: Help kids solve their issues with the calculators or group members.
- Encourage: Congratulate them on spotting even the simplest patterns. Celebrate their mathematical discoveries. Most kids never get to
*figure it out*in math. - Confuse: Do they think they see a pattern? Add some complexity by recommending new numbers.
**Push them past simple understandings!**

### Further Exploration

When kids make a discovery on their own, there’s a natural pull to keep going. Your students might want to explore beyond the minimum!

Let them try many different decimals. Multiply by: 0.1, 0.01, 0.001. Try: 0.9, 0.99 0.999. What patterns do they see?

If you’re lucky, **groups might even ask about dividing by decimals!** Or what if we multiply

*a decimal*by a decimal? Even a simple calculator can handle these operations, so let them go for it (feel free to demonstrate calculator use as needed).

Let your students experiment and explore. **They’re getting a feel for the numbers** before getting their hands dirty with the algorithm.

### The Big Chat

Save time at the end for **a whole group discussion about their discoveries**. Let *them* do the talking and explaining. Say things like:

- Did anyone else see that?
- Jane, did your group find anything different (you know they did because you checked in on them)?
- What do you think would happen if… (especially great if a group tried this already)?
- Anyone
*disagree*with this pattern? Do we need to add something? - Can we summarize these findings in five words?

### What Else?

I’ve used calculators to play with exponents, percents, and adding negatives, but I’m sure you can come up with even more uses for the plain-old calculator.

Let me know what you come up with!