The QAMA Calculator Refuses To Give Up Answers Easy

By April 21, 2012

A California-based company has created a calculator that will only give a problem’s solution once its user has worked out an appropriate estimation of the answer. The company is referring to its product as “the calculator that thinks only if you think too.” With the new device the company hopes to improve math and estimation skills that have fallen by the wayside due to widespread reliance of calculators in schools.

The QAMA was originally developed by physicist Ilan Samson as a computer-only program, but has gone on to become available in physical calculator form this month. The device’s name comes from a simple initialism of Quick Approximate Mental Arithmetic, but is consequently also the word for “how much?” in Hebrew. Appropriate estimates are considered on a case-by-case basis, where greater and more complicated equations will allow more deviation when accepting estimates.

The company’s website acknowledges the impossible separation of calculators and classrooms today, but hopes that its new product will at least require students to use some amount of thinking power when punching numbers into their instant-answer machines.

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While the QAMA calculator may be tough on lazy learners, it still has some forgiving options if a student is completely stuck. After five incorrect tries the calculator enters into an escape mode where the solution is divulged without requiring any further guesses. Its creators have added a “lengthy delay” to these divulged answers to discourage students from intentionally mashing incorrect answers.

Additionally, there’s an option to switch the calculator out of estimation mode entirely, converting the device into another ordinary calculator. The company has paired this feature with flashing LED alarm lights so teachers can tell when a student has disabled its innovative estimation technology, even after the estimation feature has been turned back on. It’s a smart solution to potential cheaters out there, though some kind of customizable password protection system seems like it would be a bit more efficient.

At the moment the QAMA website is updating its ordering process, so it’s anyone’s guess when the product will be available to torment students of all ages into actually learning. I foresee a future full of covert, under-desk cellphone calculations and flashing red lights.

Corey Cummings

Corey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received degrees in English and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Chicago and enjoys alternately obsessing over video games that aren't out yet and crazy gadgets he can't afford.