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Calculator advice

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by sashh, Aug 9, 2011.

  1. Hiya

    Wandering over from FE and Personal.
    A friend's son is starting V I form in September doing A Level maths and Physics, I was thinking of getting him a new calculator but which one? I have no idea which subject board and the school doesn't recomend one so I wonder if you wonderful people could suggest a calculator for A Level maths.

    Thank you
  2. Hiya

    Wandering over from FE and Personal.
    A friend's son is starting V I form in September doing A Level maths and Physics, I was thinking of getting him a new calculator but which one? I have no idea which subject board and the school doesn't recomend one so I wonder if you wonderful people could suggest a calculator for A Level maths.

    Thank you
  3. DM

    DM New commenter

    We have a split opinion about this. I think a bog standard Casio Natural Display such as the FX83ES is perfectly sufficient. Others will urge you to consider a graphical calculator.
  4. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    I'd suggest two.

    The Casio FX-83GT Plus is excellent and very easy to use for all the "normal" stuff in the A level course.

    AND the Texas TI-84. A graphing calculator can really make a lot of difference in A level and the only reason they don't usually make much of a difference is that the kids don't practice with them. A good value graphing calculator like the Ti-84, with practice is worth a grade in the final result.

    (If you don't want to spend that sort of money on a calculator, the Ti-82 looks more out of date but has all the necessary functions. You can get those for under a tenner including postage on ebay.)
  5. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    I'm with DM on this. However, it's a close call. Price has alot to do with it. Have you seen the price of the TI 84...!?
    If the person you are buying for has a smart phone, or ipod, they can download a graphing app for free.
    Exams don't require a graphical calculator, and I think they have recently been much more savvy in asking questions where a graphical calculator is no particular advantage.
    That having been said, I do find it useful having a graphical calculator myself - just as a teacher, and I know alot of kids do have them and use them well.
    I've just done a quick search on amazon, and this one seems a good deal:

  6. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Yes, but the ti-82 is almost being given away on ebay and it has the same functions, it just looks a bit out of date.
    Yes, but the app can't be used in the exams. The calculator can and for most questions in the A level, it's worth sketching out the function involved. A graphing calculator can do that quickly and correctly. Also for further maths, the graphing calculators have matrix functions which are another time saver.
  7. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    The OP asked for ideas on a new calculator. I was thinking of some sort of gift. Don't deny there are some bargains on ebay, though.
    Oh, I wasn't aware of that, Paul... [​IMG]
    The OP asked for a calculator to do maths, not further maths. If the student is doing further maths, then I would agree - a graphical calculator is an extremely useful exam tool. For maths it is useful too, but not an absolute 'must have'....
  8. DM

    DM New commenter

    I couldn't disagree more. A Level examiners are under instruction to ensure that no advantage is conferred by the use of a graphical calculator. In the matrix example, all but the most trivial questions will contain an algebraic unknown rendering the graphical calculator useless. They can be useful for producing approximate answers that can then be used to check exact answers but, if the student has this much spare time available in the exam, he or she would have little need for such a device anyway. Lazy students use them to solve quadratics and to graph the simplest of curves and this can prevent them from developing basic skills.

  9. Thank you for all the promt replies. I'll have a think about how much I'm prepared to spend.
  10. David Getling

    David Getling Senior commenter

    I would thoroughly recommend the Casio Graphics calculator, that googleplex has given you a link to. Before the release of the latest TI, I would unequivocally recommend Casio in preference to TI, because the former tells the student where to enter everything, instead of expecting them to remember the order - and so is much easier to use. However, I'm told that the latest TI is now like this.

    I would strongly disagree with DM about whether graphics calculators confer an advantage. If a student can use one well (i.e. they have been lucky enough to have a teacher who knows how to use one well, and convey that knowledge) then they will most definitely have an advantage.

    Try not to be too influenced by price when making a choice. Remember the calculator will be used for two years (or longer, if used at university). But it does pay to shop around, as prices can vary significantly. Also, sometimes there are good deals to be had at the start of the school year, when manufactures and retailers are competing fiercely during the main spending splurge.
  11. DM

    DM New commenter

    Exactly what advantage do they confer for A Level DG (are you not an IB man anyway)? You know as well as I do that, if the student goes on to read mathematics at a top university, they will rarely touch a calculator again, let alone a graphical calculator.
  12. There are many ways in which a graphing calculator can provide an advantage. Take this summers Edexcel C2 exam for example Q1c you could obtain 3 out of the four marks for basically just writing down the roots of a cubic which can be trivially done using the calculator...

    Q3b asked them to solve an equation using logs to 3sf, which again can trivially be done with the use of a calculator, I stopped looking after two but you get the idea...
    I'm not saying these can't easily be done in other ways but drawing attention to the fact that the graphical calculator gives other approaches which may be easier...

    Adding variables does complicate the use of a graphing calculator but doesn't remove its advantage, as often you can just try several values for the variable and work out what effect it is having this way...
    However I agree if they go on to study pure mathematics they will never touch a calculator again, but the same is not true for most engineering or the various other applied mathematics courses which take the majority of mathematically literate students.
    I'm personally a great believer in the use of them, and think they help students look at the inter-relatedness (linking the numerical, algebraic and graphical representations) of mathematics much more effectively then can be done by hand.
    The idea that examiners can actually remove the advantage provided by a graphical calculator is really a bit of a myth in my opinion and there is much academic literature which casts doubt on whether it is even possible to really eliminate this advantage at all...
  13. GoldMaths

    GoldMaths New commenter

    By an absolute country mile FX991ES PLUS - made the whole cohort buy this calculator and its great value for money around the £15 mark.
  14. DM

    DM New commenter

    I just composed a massive rant refuting every point in turn but it disappeared when I pressed Post and you will probably be grateful to hear that I can't be bothered to type it all in again. However, I willl say that this sentence left me feeling absolutely devastated:
    Are you able to reference some of this research? This is news to me and assessment is supposedly my area of 'expertise'.
  15. I'd be delighted as this is related to the work I am doing for my own research... I'd start with Tobin (1997)
    Tobin, P. (1997). Graphics Calculators and VCE mathematics examinations. In N. Scott & H.
    Hollingsworth (Eds.), Mathematics Creating the Future (pp. 317-324). Adelaide: AAMT.
    Kissane et al. (1994)
    Kissane, B., Bradley, J., & Kemp, M. (1994). Graphic Calculators, equity and assessment. Australian Senior Mathematics Journal, 8(2), 31-44.

    McCrae (1996)
    McCrae, B. (1996). The use of Calculators in VCE Examinations: Looking Ahead. Australian Senior Mathematics Journal, 10(1), 65-71.
    This research is based in Australia but still has a lot of relevance to our A-level exams...
    If you can't find these then Roger Brown's Phd (not me!!) would also make a reasonable starting point:
  16. In some ways though I am disappointed not to get to read the rant as if I am wrong and graphical calculators don't provide an advantage I would rather know... I did check the mark schemes for the examples I gave and for solving the logs equation for example full marks are to be awarded for the correct answer with no working etc, so I struggle so see how this isn't providing an advantage?
  17. DM

    DM New commenter

    Actually it is anything but relevant as most Australian states require graphical calculators for their exams and even publish lists of approved models. Obviously a student without one would clearly be disadvantaged in their system.
  18. DM

    DM New commenter

    I just looked at the questions you referred to and they are really trivial. I factorised the cubic in my head in about five seconds as the first integer root was provided but, even if students could not do that, making a simple table of values on a normal scientific calculator would be equally as quick as drawing a graph.
    Regarding log_3 (x-2) = -1 are you seriously suggesting that graphing y = log_3 (x-2) and y = -1 and then finding the point of intersection is quicker than stating x - 2 = 1/3 so x = 2.33 (3 dp)? Graphical calculator = huge disadvantage here.
    I really found your suggestion about randomly trying values to try to break down a result horrific. This is exactly the sort of strategy I feared a student might end up adopting but I did not expect to hear a professional educator condone it as a reasonable examination strategy.
    If I seem particularly snappy tonight it is because I feel really unsettled by the rioting - I'm sure I am not alone in this - excuse me for not sugaring my words.
  19. You are of course correct that most Australian exams now require to use a graphical calculator, but this was not the case when this research was written and I suspect this is part of the reason that they now require, rather than permit the use of graphical calculators...
    At the point this research was done they were in a similar position to the current A-level specification in terms of graphical calculator use, I genuinely would recommend you have a read if you are interested...
  20. DM

    DM New commenter

    Aarghh - that should say 2.333 (3 d.p.) or 2.33 (3 s.f.). I can't remember which!

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