In classrooms all over the world, students are confused about how to properly use a calculator. Some teachers have an attitude about using an an algebra calculator that means that they won’t let you use a calculator ever, no matter how large the numbers are or how inefficient it is to do the calculations by hand. On the other hand, other teachers are so lazy and care so little about you actually learning how to do algebra that they will let you use a calculator for anything and everything they can get away with.

But here’s what your teacher doesn’t want you to know. You should only be using an algebra calculator when you’re dealing with really long or tricky decimals, or when you’re doing single basic calculations that are tedious on a pen and paper, like multiplying two five-digit numbers. The reason you shouldn’t use your algebra calculators for simple tasks like finding the slope of a line or solving a basic linear equation is that you aren’t really learning algebra that way. If you can only do basic algebra with the help of a calculator, then you aren’t preparing your mind to learn more complicated ideas in algebra.

*So if you have an Algebra 1 teacher who keeps pushing you to use an algebra calculator to do everything, you should be really careful. Chances are, he or she doesn’t care about whether you do well in Algebra 2 or not, since they don’t really care too much about actually teaching you Algebra 1. Instead, your teacher probably just wants you to be quiet and stop asking for help, even if that means you will probably not do well in future math classes because he or she didn’t want to do a good job as a teacher.*