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Will new A Level students be disadvantaged without graphical calculators?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by smileyanna1, Mar 5, 2017.

  1. smileyanna1

    smileyanna1 New commenter

    The more information I get on the new A Level, the more I am convinced that students with a graphical calculator will be advantaged, and courses I have been on have certainly suggested that students will need more than their basic calculator.
    Coming from a school with a significant number of low-income students, limited parental support and a small departmental budget, I am concerned that my students will be disadvantaged by not having flashy calculators. I also think that I could lose potential A Level students, who will be put off if I mention the cost of the calculators - even the Classwiz at £30, never mind the graphical ones at around £100!
    This does not sit right with me - that a student's education might be limited by their financial situation - and I know that many of my students / parents would rather not take the A Level than apply for financial support.
  2. adamcreen

    adamcreen Occasional commenter

    The Classwiz is £20 for schools, and you can pass them on to students at that price. Oxford Educational and Science Studio have (currently limited) stock at that price. The course is designed to be taught using technology but that can be Desmos on a tablet or laptop or desktop, Excel for the large data set, or graphic calculators if your school has them. In the exam there is no serious advantage to a graphic, as at present.
    If a family is unable to afford £20 for a calculator, they should be receiving the hardship payments anyway: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/16-to-19-bursary-fund-guide-for-2016-to-2017
  3. DamianR

    DamianR New commenter

    For the statistics parts of the new A level, there seems to be an expectation that students have calculators which can calculate Binomial and Normal probabilities. Certainly in AQA's draft formula book there are no longer tables of values for Normal and Binomial.
  4. PFCDaz

    PFCDaz New commenter

    DamianR is correct, students with graphical calculators will have no more advantage than they have currently, although with the greater emphasis on problem solving and communication, a graphical calculator may be a disadvantage to some students as the onus will be on them in many questions to explain working that they may currently get away with using a graphing calculator to shortcut. A lot of time and thought (in the OCR development team at least) went into how to meet the technology requirements of the dfe/ofqual without disadvantaging students who did not have access to high tech equipment.

    a calculator capable of producing binomial and normal probabilities is essential though, and fortunately both texas and casio have low cost calculators that do the job

    Texas: TI-30X ~£17
    Casio: FX-991EX ~£21.99

    for further maths I think both of these calculators are also sufficient...

    There is an expectation in the way the specs are written that students will have used graphing packages (either via calculators or desmos/geogebra etc) and spreadsheet software to explore the content. This is the "technology must permeate the spec" requirement from DfE/Ofqual, although it is entirely up to centres how much or little this requirement is followed as it simply cannot be assessed (The MEI spec does have some questions that require spreadsheet output to be interpreted).

    hope this helps!
  5. whornby

    whornby New commenter

    As adamcreen says there should be no significant advantage to using graphical calculators in the assessment. He is also right to mention the hardship fund as a possible way of dealing with it, though there are other possibilities like local sponsorship.

    The two scientifics mentioned by PFCDaz are sufficient for all OCR and MEI options (other than Further Pure with Technology!). As DamianR notes, they must now have access to probabilties from the binomial and normal distributions, which both of these do. They have all the features like solving polynomials, finding definite integrals, solving simultaneous equations and so on which are now standard; all they are missing compared to a graphical is the graphing capability.

    It is also true that AQA, OCR and MEI have all lost the tables for binomial and normal distributions.

    Of course there are many advantages to having access to graphical calculators in the classroom, particularly if you don't have access to PCs or tablets. If you want access to cheap graphing software, then students could be running Desmos or Geogebra on their mobile phones - both have free apps with excellent functionality.

    (Disclaimer - I am a member of the OCR maths team.)
  6. Colleen_Young

    Colleen_Young Occasional commenter

    MEI have provided a useful document on the use of Technology - thought I would start a new page in this A Level series of pages.
  7. pair_of_argyles

    pair_of_argyles Occasional commenter

    But they can't use these in the exam
  8. willhornby153

    willhornby153 New commenter

    Pairofargyles: yes, thats why I said it in a paragraph about classroom use. If you want the graphing in the exam, which is not necessary, then you have to buy a graphical calculator.
  9. willhornby153

    willhornby153 New commenter

  10. Colleen_Young

    Colleen_Young Occasional commenter

    I like that a lot - can I upload the pdf itself to my blog - full credit to you of course and a link to all your pages - but it's not that obvious to find.

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