An often controversial topic among many educators is whether the use of calculators should be acceptable in the classroom. According to research, the use of calculators should not be considered a problem as multiplication often involves large numbers. However, it is important that students develop strategies for multiplication and should not be entirely dependent on calculators for the answer. When asked to defend an answer that was found using a calculator, a student should be able to defend his or her answer. So, in other words, use of a calculator should be permitted but there should be limitations and restrictions in place.
One activity presented in by Van de Walle and Folk that involves using the calculator to help enhance the relationship between addition and multiplication is called "The Broken Multiplication Key" (130). This activity requires students to find products on the calculator without using the 'x' key. For example, 4 x 3 can be found by pressing + 3 = = = = (Pressing = will add 3 to the new product each time; you began with zero and added 3 four times.)
Van de Walle, John, and Folk, Sandra. Elementary and Middle School Mathematics - Teaching Developmentally. Canadian ed. Pearson Education Canada, 2005.