Feeds

Super calculators make maths super-easy

Oh boy...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Seven Steps to Software Security

Researchers at the University of Swansea have come up with a new interface for pocket calculators that they say will make it even easier for people to solve difficult sums.

Instead of having to work out which order to input numbers, users of the prototype device need only transcribe the calculation as it appears on paper, and the calculator will do the rest, New Scientist reports. Inventor Harold Thimbleby explains that people get confused about the order they need to put information in to normal, button-based calculators, and that his alternative is more intuitive.

The calculator can also tackle problems that would be next to impossible to solve on a normal number-cruncher. For example, if a user enters the problem: x!=5040, Thimbleby's machine would be able to calculate x.

It uses character recognition software and the relative positions of the characters to work out what the calculation is. So users can enter a calculation just as it appears on paper, and the computer will work out what it means. Once the computer has "recognised" the characters, the user can move or amend them as needed.

Thimbleby and his team asked nine people to work out a variety of sums involving difficult bits of the calculator, like the brackets, square root functions and powers. He was surprised to discover that with standard calculators they managed to get the wrong answer 51 per cent of the time. For example, he says, to work out what 4 x -5 is, people tend to key in 4 x - 5, and so end up with the result -1.

However, using the input device he and his team came up with, the error rate dropped to 19 per cent.

Thimbleby suggests the device could be used as a teaching aid in the classroom. Plugged into an interactive whiteboard, it could tell a student if the answer proposed was correct, for example. ®

Related stories

How computers make kids dumb
Computers bad for kids
Ruth Kelly: transforming teaching with IT

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Vote now for LOHAN's stirring mission patch motto
Does the shed actually know no bounds, or what?
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.