Archive for the ‘Calculators’ Category

Students confront the TI-nSpire

Did I mention that I won a TI-nSpire calculator at ICTCM? (also I won free registration for ICTCM 2009 … but I was really hoping for the Wii … drats!)

I brought it to both my calculus class and my algebra class today to see what my students thought about it.

First reaction from the calculus students: It’s almost as big as my tablet PC … well not quite, but close.

Second reaction from the calculus students: Let’s compare it to things we carry in our pocket. (note – the TI-83 does fit in a front jeans pocket according to my students)

Reaction #3: While the viewing window is bigger (a plus), the actual viewing size of the graphing area is roughly the same.

And finally, from my algebra class … “what do you mean it doesn’t have a color screen?” “what … no wi-fi?” Several of them tried to interact with it by touching the screen. Suprise! No touch screen either. I asked them to pull out the devices that they normally carry with them and we took a picture.

To be fair, two of my calculus students got the TI-nSpire to the point of actually finding an integral or graphing a function. And one of them says I should give it a fair chance … mathematically … and I will. I’m just saying that this design is totally going in the WRONG direction. If I were TI, I’d be designing the nSpire software to run on an iPhone, the Android platform, and the Palm platform. When these student’s phones all have a slightly larger screen and wi-fi access, they will want their calculator in the device too.

See that Sony Palmtop in the left of the last picture? That would’ve been a better design … and would fit in a pocket.

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Microsoft Math?

Okay, I’ll admit it… I had never ever heard of this product until today. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

Apparently Microsoft Math launched quietly in June 2007… here’s the link to the article.

I was complaining to my Calculus class today about the fact that graphing calculators have always cost around $100 and don’t appear to be dropping in price like everything else with microchips, and one of my students said… well, you could use Microsoft Math… for the record, I think my student learned about it because he was home-schooled for most of his life and his math skills may have outpaced his parents.

The program costs $19.95 and includes, not only a graphing calculator for your computer that is capable of graphing 3-D, but also has Solver features that show students the steps to work through algebra problems.

Hmm. Of course, it won’t work on a Mac… which is a problem. But could it be a viable alternative to a $120 graphing calculator? (you may remember my calculator rant from a few weeks ago)

I have mixed feelings about these “solver” features. On the one hand, it was a very good student that is using this, so he obviously finds the step-by-step features helpful. However, I can see the possibility of misuse in the hands of less conscienscious students.

What is cool, however, is that you can write your mathematics into the program and it gives you a list of choices that it interprets to be your mathematical desire. Perhaps this would encourage better handwriting?

Another thought… this might be an excellent product to have installed in our math tutoring centers, especially for those times when a tutor is not available.

Have any of you used this program? I’ve downloaded the trial and I’m going to check it out, but maybe some of you have some experience with it already?

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Maria’s Calculator Rant and throwing down a challenge

Here’s my little graphing calculator rant… it started as a P.S. to the previous post about the free Casio and grew into something much larger than a P.S. Anyways, don’t read if you don’t want to hear me whine about graphing calculator politics.

I’m quite sick of calculators doing more and more stuff that is really not welcome in the classroom. Honestly, I won’t be surprised the first time a student’s graphing calculator picks up a pencil and takes their test for them, showing all the proper work. Surely, it’s not that far off! Can’t anyone just begin making graphing calculators that DON’T do more and more but get cheaper instead?

Every other technology has come down in price: cell phones, MP3 players, desktops, laptops, etc. Somebody please make a basic graphing calculator without all these ridiculous frills that really just help a few students cheat better on tests. The students aren’t going to use the “calendar” feature on the calculator (they’ve got cell phones for that). They aren’t going to responsibly use the CAS that’s built in to many of the calculators now. It’s just a way for them to forget any algebraic skill they might have learned at some point in time.

Which of the frills do the students use? They download notes from the internet to their calculator, they download games to play in class, and they use the detailed periodic table and conversions that are built into their calculator to avoid learning the skills that are fundamental in their science classes (which is why they are now banned in many of our chemistry classes).

The calculator companies will say… oh, but students want those features and so we’re just giving them what they want. Let’s not be daft. Students buy what the school or instructor tells them to buy. I don’t need them to have all these extra features in their graphing calculator. In fact, I could teach them better if the calculator would just do graphing, tables, and calculations. Period.

With initiatives like the $100 laptop for every child (OLPC project), does it seem odd to anyone but me that graphing calculators still cost over $100? For heaven’s sake… it’s JUST a calculator!!!

Here’s my challenge to TI, Casio, HP, and anyone else willing to jump into the fray (Wolfram? Maple? M.I.T.? Apple?). Let’s see a $20 graphing calculator for every college student project (OGCPCS)… and while we’re wishing on a rainbow, let’s have it be solar powered too. Without a backlit screen, it doesn’t do it any good to have battery power in the dark anyways.

And if you feel the same, let’s hear a commented “AMEN!”

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Get a free Casio fx-9860G Slim Calculator

Casio is undoubtedly trying to break TI’s hold on the handheld calculator market, and really, their newest calculator is definitely sleeker than TI’s new nSpire, so I, for one, am willing to look. Here are the new contenders in the handheld graphing calculator battle:

In this corner, the TI-nSpire, weighing in at $159.99 and 80ish buttons.

And in this corner, the underdog, Casio fx-9860G Slim, weighing in at $99.99 with 32 buttons and a flip top case. (hmm… remind you of any other handy pocket accessory that students carry?)

If you will complete Casio’s demonstration/online training course on using the fx-9860G Slim, then they will give you a $100 debit card, which you can either use to purchase the calculator, or use for other supplies.

Here is the press release with all the details. The press release tells you to go to the Casio Educator website. To actually participate you need to get a casio account and go through the training. This is only available while supplies last, and it takes a little while to “be approved” for the online course, so don’t drag your feet on this one!

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Android: The Future of Calculators?

Google has announced a new open-source platform called Android for mobile phones. Program developers are eligible for a piece of $10 million for developing novel and useful mobile phone programs.

You can watch Google’s demo of Android here. It kind of starts out slow, so skip to the last 3 minutes if you just don’t have the time to invest 6 minutes to watch the whole video clip.

How does this relate to math & technology? Well, surely someone (Maple, Mathematica, Texas Instruments, Casio) has got to realize by now that what we really need is graphing calculator SOFTWARE for students that runs on a mobile smart phone.

Students carry less and less with them to class. Rarely a day goes by when several students have not even brought paper & pencil to class with them. The 2006 ECAR survey showed that the majority of students (70.3%) don’t bother to carry their laptops with them to class (even when it is required for class).

So doesn’t it make sense that their smart phone should be able to double as a graphing calculator? And bonus… the calculator would then use color instead of black & white.

Here’s another thought… Design Science (MathType) could use Android to develop a way to finally get mathematics into emails and onto smartphones.

Unfortunately, I’m not really a programmer, or obviously I’d develop these ideas myself and take my slice of Google’s pie.

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TI-SmartView Drag and Drop

Here is a tip that I picked up at the Tablet presentation at AMATYC involving TI-Smartview. You don’t have to have a tablet to use this tip. It will work for anyone!

Watch the short video clip to see how to import the graphs and screen views you see in SmartView quickly into a Microsoft Word document (the video takes a few seconds to load, so be patient).

Now that I’ve seen it, it seems obvious, but I didn’t know you could do this, and so I’m guessing that not all of you did either!

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