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Cantankerous Calculators?

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The Faculty of Business and Economics has introduced a calculator regulation policy during mid- semester tests and end-of-semester examinations commencing in 2016: the HP10bII+ financial calculator is the only approved calculator to be used by students. Commerce students will be able to get the newly approved financial calculator free of charge from the university. The Business and Economics faculty has made this decision as a response to student feedback regarding the need to acquire security stickers for calculators prior to tests and examinations. Such standardisation of calculators seems to be a favourable settlement at first sight, but there has been an immense resistance amongst commerce students over the past month, as the faculty and MSA Education Department are being bombarded with complaints and a petition is being signed.

The HP10bII+ financial calculator, currently marketed at the price of $73.98 by Officeworks, aims to aid solving of business, financial, statistical and maths calculations with accuracy and efficiency. It includes business and statistical functions for Time Value of Money (TVM), amortisation, depreciation, interest rate conversion, cash flows, bonds, statistics and more. Students will be able to calculate specific values via its pre-programmed functions, which many users have found useful in finance calculations. Nonetheless, users will have to thoroughly go through the attached start guide to gain familiarity with the financial functions, because the entering of digits into any one of the functions is highly disciplinary and complicated.

There have been rumours that the HP10bII+ financial calculator does not include parentheses, a basic function that most calculators have. This HP calculator does in fact come with parentheses buttons: press “red shift button” and click “RM” or “M+”. Yet, if the function is used twice in a single calculation, the answer will turn out to be incorrect. This downside and the function’s hiddenness implies that if users have not gone through the manual or are not adjusted to its functioning, they will struggle with exponential or logarithmic calculations.

The approved HP calculator also does not allow users to put in more than one line of working and go back to check what they have typed previously. It comes with an unconventional memory function that stores numbers for varied purposes, but such number storage and storage register arithmetic functions can create confusion for new users during exams.

Since the start of the semester, there has been much criticism on the financial calculator, since all students are accustomed to their personal calculator they have been using since high school. It is understandable how the Faculty of Business and Economics came up with the decision to eliminate inconveniences of previous security stickers– once everyone uses the same approved gadget, there will be no concerns of people cheating in exams with text storage functions some advanced scientific calculators might have. However, a concern here is the amount of time students have to dedicate aside from their official studies to adjust to the change.

The faculty has handed out the approved calculator to current first year students during Orientation Day, but one month into the semester, the shortage of stock caused by the first stage of distribution has caused all other students to wait for its arrival. Only until early April did the second stage of handing-out commence, but there are still plenty of students currently enrolled in units requiring the HP calculator in tests and final exams waiting an email from the faculty for the collection of their tool.

I personally come across the change of permission for calculators when my unit coordinator for a financial accounting unit mentioned an approval of private calculators in our mid-semester test due to the HP calculator’s stock shortage. The change of policy has not been communicated across in a clear and accurate manner. Commerce students did not received an email in the beginning of the school year explaining the policy alternation. Information was not provided on how the decision was made, the purpose of the new policy and the selection of the specific financial calculator. Plus, there are not any workshops opened for commerce students, instructing and educating the functioning and usage of this calculator.

It is possible that some people will later find the HP10bII+ handy once adjusted to it, while others will prefer their own scientific calculator that they having been using for a long time. Either way, the faculty is obliged to provide commerce students with enough information of the change of policy and sufficient time to learn and adjust. With the examination period approaching, students will have to figure out a way to learn using the device, especially for those who have not yet received the calculators. The purpose of bringing in a calculator into an exam is to eliminate trivial worries calculations might bring, but in this case, it seems like the newly approved HP10bII+ financial calculator may add disruptions to the answering of questions during upcoming finals for some commerce units this year.

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Brian Shih

The author Brian Shih

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