Last year, my school purchased class sets of TI Nspire CX calculators with wireless Navigator systems. Be still my nerdy heart! These things are awesome. I can use the wireless capabilities to conduct polls during class, obtaining immediate assessment data. Then I can reveal a bar chart of all inputted answers, and we can discuss the positive merits of wrong answers along with where they went wrong. Game changer!

The difficult thing about this transition is the massive leap students have to make to learn the whole new paradigm behind these calculators, when they were used to the TI 84 model. The Nspires function much more like a computer, where you create documents, and each document has pages which can contain either a calculator, graph, spreadsheet, statistical graph, text editor, or a data collection app (if you have the attachments). The keypad is incredibly different than the 84’s and they are just miles apart.

Anticipating the difficulty of this gap, I wanted to find something to help them feel more familiar and less overwhelmed with the new calculator. A quick search of the TI Education website revealed this scavenger hunt by Lois Coles for an earlier version of the Nspire. I adapted it, changing the buttons, and maybe adding a few things. I was in first year teacher mode, and didn’t think much more of it.

This year, I made a few quick edits and came up with this:

I used this as an in class activity, giving students plenty of time and the chance to work together. I tried to take all the pressure of “getting the right answer” off and explained the goal was really just to familiarize themselves with the calculator.

Within the first 20-30 minutes of using the activity this year, I realized it just didn’t fit.

- Now that I teach AP Stat, Precal, and Geometry, I realized the way my students will regularly be using the calculators in each class looks very different.
- The activity itself just doesn’t cover things that are really that important. Why in the world do my students need to know what color the numbers are?

I started an evernote list during class with a few key questions/notes, such as: “should target more practical skills,” and “why show them how to plot points on the calculator? we don’t do that in class.”

I am also being inspired by Amber Caldwell’s post on Calculator Boot Camp. She mentions a focus on practicing key calculator skills at the beginning of the year. They get the experience, but are still doing appropriately challenging math.

I think next year’s iteration will be different and more targeted for every class, so they can get specific skills relevant to their individual course.