Too many times, whenever I've asked students if they know how to use their scientific calculators, they look at me appalled that I would ask something so ridiculous. Yet, when the time comes to assess their ability to use their calculators, well... I am appalled!

Certainly when it comes to simpler calculations, nearly all students demonstrate wonderful competency, but when asked to perform tricky calculations that involve parentheses, exponents, square root, or logarithmic functions in the numerator and denominator, their confidence belies them.

As an example, solve the below problem: (6.02 x 10^23) (8.65 x 10^4)

It would not be too difficult, using the parenthesis and exponent functions of your calculator to obtain the answer: (6.02 x 10^23) (8.65 x 10^4) = 5.21 x 10^28

Yet, what if you were asked to solve this? (6.02 x 10^23) (8.65 x 10^4) / (4.19 x 10^-9)

It is not enough to simply know how to use exponent and parentheses functions, but you also need to know that once you multiply the items in the numerator, they need to be totaled or equaled before pressing the division key and using the parenthesis and exponent functions in the denominator.

The key strokes would go as follows: (6.02 x 10^23) "times" (8.65 x 10^4) "equals" then "divided by" (4.19 x 10^-9) "equals"

Hopefully in carrying out these key strokes you ended up with 1.24 x 10^37

If this was not the answer you obtained, please practice this problem until you get this!

When it comes to carrying out calculations involving logarithms and square roots, they can pose similar challenges.

Check-off List of Things to Do:

Read this entire webpage

Watch the video linked right, watch it in its entirety!