Med Math and Calculators

  1. I am curious to know what your opinion is on whether or not students should be allowed to use calculators during their med math tests.

    My experience with students is that they are raised on computers and have had easy access to calculators since about the 8th grade. Many haven't done stubby pencil and paper math for a long time.

    Our faculty requires students to pass med math with 100%. Students have 2 opportunities to retake the test. If they don't get 100%, they do not progress and fail the course.

    Does NCLEX open up a calculator window for flow rate questions?

    Calculator or no calculator?
    Karen
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  2. 15 Comments

  3. by   puggymae
    We do not allow students to use a calculator. Routine calculations involve basic 5th grade math skills such as multiplying and dividing with a decimal or fraction. Plus you cannot tell if what the student really has is just a calculator - it may have all kinds of info stored in it.
  4. by   AuntieRN
    We were allowed to use calculators all through school...however...it had to be a basic calculator like you can get at the dollar store and had to be checked by the instructor before every exam. If you were caught with a fancy one you were thrown out. I agree that everyone should be able to do math with paper and pencil...but...when you get to doing heparin etc, those numbers can get quite big...also..its better to use a calculator and get the correct calculations then giving the wrong dosage of med right?
  5. by   Race Mom
    As an older student, computers weren't around until after graduation from high school. I did all that pencil/eraser stuff, had to have a college algebra class to get into the nursing program and have definately paid my dues. I would hate to think that I could not use a calculator due to the fact that the younger generation didn't have to. We live in a world of technology. We depend on it for a lot of things. Sure, I could do it the long way, but that leaves room for errors that would not happen if I use a calc. We are allowed to use them. We can't have anything more than a basic calc. To me it makes no sense why you (general term) would want to add that much more stress to students that will graduate and need to know how to figure the med calcs on a calculator in the real world of nursing. I am now extremely thankful that my school allows calculators, after finding out that some don't. As a matter of fact, I have 3 calculators in my bag! Just in case!!
  6. by   KMSRN
    Quote from puggymae
    We do not allow students to use a calculator. Routine calculations involve basic 5th grade math skills such as multiplying and dividing with a decimal or fraction. Plus you cannot tell if what the student really has is just a calculator - it may have all kinds of info stored in it.
    If I may respond. I work in Staff Developement and I develop and administer the medication test at my facility. I strongly advise that nurses use a calculator because, although most can do the calculations manually, it leaves much more room for error. Calculators are one more method for removing human error from the medication administration equation. Having said that, for students, I understand why you wouldn't want them to use fancy PDAs or other memory laden machines. Why not keep cheap basic calculators for them to use? Then they learn to do the calculations themselves but have the added safety of the calculator when figuring out doses. Plus they learn how to use the calculator correctly - you'd be amazed at how many nurses don't know how.
  7. by   MikeyJ
    I am a student; however, our school does allow us to use basic calculators. As previous posters had said, it eliminates the chance of making a dosage error. I've never understood schools that restrict students from using calculators (both in clinicals and during exams). As long as the student knows how to correctly use the formula, what is the harm in allowing them to use a calculator?

    Furthermore, I have run into students who are just not good with numbers. I also know of a dyslexic nursing student at another school who approached her professors about using a calculator during her clincals and on her math exams. She explained that she knew how to do all of the dosage calculations; however, with her dyslexic, she could easily flip numbers around and ultimately make a fatal mistake. They ultimately allowed her to use a calculator, but it goes to show that there are students out there who, because of a disability, could mistakenly make a fatal error in a dosage calculation.
  8. by   morte
    Quote from KMSRN
    If I may respond. I work in Staff Developement and I develop and administer the medication test at my facility. I strongly advise that nurses use a calculator because, although most can do the calculations manually, it leaves much more room for error. Calculators are one more method for removing human error from the medication administration equation. Having said that, for students, I understand why you wouldn't want them to use fancy PDAs or other memory laden machines. Why not keep cheap basic calculators for them to use? Then they learn to do the calculations themselves but have the added safety of the calculator when figuring out doses. Plus they learn how to use the calculator correctly - you'd be amazed at how many nurses don't know how.
    using calculators in no way "removes" human error, too much relying on cal. can get you in a heap of trouble.....when i took physics, when asked if we could use calc., the prof said yes, but, you had to have an idea of what the answer should be...not to utterly depend on the answer that the calc. gave you....remember the computer term "garbage in-garbage out",..his point was proved in my first lab....i was doing the work, my partner was plugging in the numbers....came up with a number that i knew couldnt be correct.....he said "but that is what i got on the calculator"!...told him to redo, came up with a dif #, one which i could rec as being "in the ballpark", and indeed was correct........
  9. by   wtbcrna
    Quote from morahan
    I am curious to know what your opinion is on whether or not students should be allowed to use calculators during their med math tests.

    My experience with students is that they are raised on computers and have had easy access to calculators since about the 8th grade. Many haven't done stubby pencil and paper math for a long time.

    Our faculty requires students to pass med math with 100%. Students have 2 opportunities to retake the test. If they don't get 100%, they do not progress and fail the course.

    Does NCLEX open up a calculator window for flow rate questions?

    Calculator or no calculator?
    Karen
    I don't think students should be allowed to use calculators on their initial math tests. There are still places where you might not have one handy...humantarian assignments/jobs, deployments to austere environments.....or maybe in your own hospital after hurricaine Katrina hits and you can barely get the meds let alone find a calculator in the dark by flashlight...??
    If the school is only going to give a student two tries to pass a math test then the school should be prepared to do intensive/remedial/required tutorials in math for students that do not pass on the first try.
    When I took my NCLEX-PN & NCLEX-RN we didn't have the use of calculators, but that was a few years ago. Although on the CCRN exam the use of basic calculator is allowed.
  10. by   Goodoldnurse
    At the school where I teach, we supply the calculators for the math tests. That way, we don't have to worry about who has what calculator.
    Our biggest problem is students that do not know the formulas.
    I wish it was just the calculator!
    Some don't realize the need to know basic calculations. They may hold a life in their hands! What if the power goes out? The pharmacists are all busy with codes or out with the flu.
    I even have math in my Grad school!
  11. by   buttercup_0058
    Quote from Woogy
    As an older student, computers weren't around until after graduation from high school. I did all that pencil/eraser stuff, had to have a college algebra class to get into the nursing program and have definately paid my dues. I would hate to think that I could not use a calculator due to the fact that the younger generation didn't have to. We live in a world of technology. We depend on it for a lot of things. Sure, I could do it the long way, but that leaves room for errors that would not happen if I use a calc. We are allowed to use them. We can't have anything more than a basic calc. To me it makes no sense why you (general term) would want to add that much more stress to students that will graduate and need to know how to figure the med calcs on a calculator in the real world of nursing. I am now extremely thankful that my school allows calculators, after finding out that some don't. As a matter of fact, I have 3 calculators in my bag! Just in case!!
    I love my job and am very passionate what I do. I would hate to think I was unable to fullfill this goal without being a math whiz....I am soo not good at math. Nursing is challenging enough without adding additional stress. I can understand not wanting students to use fancy calculators and stuff, but simple basic ones...I carry my own little one with me when I work! You still have to know the formulas and stuff. Mostn students today are so book smart I often at first wish I was so much like them, but when they are out on the floor, sometimes you see that they have not developed common sense while they were at school. So i think too much emphasis is placed on trivial things such as calculators, and not enough time on communication skills and nurse/client relationship etc...
  12. by   JennieJenRN
    We were able to use calculators in school. Also I work in pediatrics and I have one in my pocket one at my bedside table and two in my bag. If they can use it when they are out of school why not in school. Math was never my best subject.
  13. by   CT Pixie
    student here.

    We were given a basic calculator for our entrance exam. We cannot use one while in classes. But several graduates of different schools have told me that the NCLEX does have a calculator window you can use.

    I know that people need to know basic math but I don't see that a calculator will help them figuring out how to set up a formula for a calculation., it only helps to ensure the numbers are computed correctly. Which is my main complaint with no calculators being allowed in class and for tests. You need to know how to set up the formula before you can enter the numbers into the basic calculator.

    But as with everything else that I might not agree with at school, its their school, their program, their rules. I just suck it up and do what is asked.
  14. by   classicdame
    I believe the education should be as close to "real life" as possible. Let them use the calculators. It is the answer that matters, not the process.

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