While a graphing calculator is not listed as a necessary school supply in the school district where I teach (and we do not require them for students in our classes, either), it can become a vital piece of equipment that contributes toward student success in math and science.

[About the picture at left (taken in the fall of 2010), my wife swears I am raising nerds as daughters, but also gets some sort of appreciation out of the amount of technology they are able to navigate and utilize.  I heard her yell from living room to bedroom yesterday "How do you girls know how to use your father's iPad anyway?"]

I incorporate technology use on graphing calculators on a regular basis, making sure to give detailed instructions while also using the TI-SmartView software for the TI-84 Family of Handhelds.  I also utilize a TI-Navigator system that was acquired at no expense to our district, when another school had transitioned to a different model of handheld and no longer had use for it. With the use of a SMART Board, I am able to troubleshoot issues on student handhelds on the fly with minimal interruption of class flow.

What I wanted to share on this post were a couple ways I have advocated for students to acquire their own graphing calculator or handheld.  Enter, my back-to-school bulletin board argyle pattern made up of all the graphing calculator models I have ever taught from.  The photo below is only the background, the main part of the display is all the "dead" calculators with broken screens, mangled keypads, or any other debilitating condition which leaves them out of rotation among regular class use.  In nine years of teaching, none of these items have ever been taken, mishandled, or defaced by students.  Call it a mini-museum of sorts (nothing compared to the Museum of Mathematics in New York), but not bad for an amateur like myself), but it definitely lets students handle older versions of handhelds, piquing their curiosity and leading to all sorts of "What can it do?" moments.

Models included in this bulletin board background pattern, all of which I have taught from at some point:
  • TI-83
  • TI-83 Plus
  • TI-84 Plus and Silver Edition
  • TI-86
  • TI-89 Titanium
  • TI-Nspire Clickpad (Numeric and CAS)
  • TI-Nspire Touchpad (Numeric and CAS)
  • TI-Nspire CX (Numeric and CAS)

The background file is available here (in PDF and XLS formats)
The title file I use, "Calculators that Work", is available here (in PDF and XLS formats)
Feel free to reuse any of these for your own classrooms/hallways.

Here's a glimpse at the assembly line of the two-page pairings that produced the argyle-ish background for this board. I was able to trim down any overlap on the top and left edges of the images by using a large paper cutter at school, then tucking under any white edges still visible on the right sides to make sure "dead space" stayed to a minimum.

Just because I don't require a graphing calculator of my students doesn't mean that I can't adequately inform their parents of what options are available in our area.

The way I do this is to produce a handout each year around Open House time to show parents what stores and prices are in our area for graphing calculators they will use in our building's science and math courses.  

As of Tuesday, August 7, 2012, HERE is the latest copy of that handout I have produced; I called it "FYI's about T.I.'s" since the models I tend to recommend are by Texas Instruments. I also serve as a T^3 Regional Instructor on their behalf, providing professional development involving the use of some of their products in math and science classes. Please copy it if you wish, or just use the pricing comparison to help compile a similar handout of your own.

It becomes comical to me how many students wind up, by winter break or graduation time, will ask their parents for a graphing calculator as a gift in lieu of the latest gaming system, cell phone, or MP3 player.  It definitely makes me think I've done something to get them interested in math.

UPDATE (8/9/2012):  If the attached files above are coming out a bit funny, let me know.  When I attempted one, it came out with several blank pages in Print Preview, mainly because the text boxes "reserve" space above and below the visible lettering  Below is a photo of this year's final product.  Please let me know your thoughts and comments, even suggestions because I realize now I used a LOT of black and white so suggestions on splashing color would be helpful (in retrospect, I probably used black and white out of respect for the "dead" calculators used as exhibits on this mini-museum).

(Follow me on Twitter, username @ScottKeltner, if interested.) 


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