I’ve had a couple of instances this week where my students blindly grab their calculators, start punching in numbers, and then announce the answer without running it by their gray matter.

While I wouldn’t want to tackle the entire SAT math section without my calculator, the College Board asserts that all the questions can be answered without one. And that is especially true for the easy questions.

## Use your brain first

Here’s an easy question.

This is a straight-forward substitution problem. Putting in 1/2 for x, we get 1 over 1/2 plus 1 over (1/2 minus 1). Simplifying this expression turns it into 1 over 1/2 plus 1 over (negative 1/2). Which can be rewritten as (1 over 1/2) minus (1 over 1/2). Which is 0.

If you grab your calculator and start entering in the numbers is will very correctly follow the order of operations as follows:

- 1 divided by 1/2 equals 2.
- plus 1 divided by 1/2 (which is 2 so now it is at 4) minus 1 which is 3. (Order of operations tells the calculator to divide before subtracting) (You would have to type the following into the calculator to make it work: “1 divided by 1/2 plus (1 divided by (1/2 -1))”

You’d need to carefully type in “one divided by one-half, plus one divided by the quantity open parentheses one-half minus one close parentheses.”

Yikes! It’s a whole lot easier and faster to just do it by hand and do the easy calculations in your head.

Only reach for your calculator for medium and hard problems and only AFTER you have used your brain to solve it.

### Want weekly test tips and strategies?

Subscribe to get my latest content by email.