Do you need a graphic calculator for A-level maths?
The calculator really shows its value as a source of support and a tool to enhance learning as students make the step up from GCSE to A-level maths.
Something we often hear from teachers is that A-level maths places a higher expectation on students to grasp difficult concepts, apply their knowledge in more abstract ways, analyse data and show the reasoning behind their answers in exams.
A calculator can help with all of these challenges. That’s why it’s so important for students to make the right choice in the device they want to use. One key decision is whether to make the move from the scientific calculator they’re likely to have used at GCSE to a graphic calculator.
A capable scientific calculator, such as those that make up the Casio ClassWiz series, will provide the essential functionality required to cover the minimum requirements of the A-level maths syllabus.
The most advanced scientific calculators – which are a basic requirement for single maths A-level – offer capabilities including:
- Scientific calculation
- Equation solving
- Numerical calculus
- Vectors and matrices
- Regression statistics calculation
- Binomial probability distributions
Casio has recently relaunched its ClassWiz range, enhancing it with more intuitive navigation, a refreshed design and new features including Mathbox and QR codes.
These changes help to ensure our scientific calculators are a good option for A-level maths students, as long as they have the time and support to get used to the device and feel ready to use it in their final exams.
When we spoke to James Davis, Head of KS5 Further Mathematics at Newstead Wood School, he stressed the importance of students using their calculator of choice from the start of year 12, and sticking with it until the end of year 13.
He also pointed out that, for students sitting higher-tier papers, a calculator with graphing capabilities is likely to be a more suitable option than a scientific model.
James noted that the advantages of graphic calculators become particularly clear for students working at greater depth in subjects such as statistics, further maths and core maths.
There are many reasons for this, one of which is very simple: maths is an inherently visual subject. We’ve heard from many teachers and education experts that students learn better when they have a range of options to visualise challenging concepts, and this is exactly what they get with a graphic calculator.
Let’s take function transformations as an example. This can be a tricky subject for students to really get to grips with if all they have to go on are numbers and letters on a page. When they have graphing capability in the palm of their hand, however, they can view a clear representation of given functions and see how changing values affect the shape of the graph.
Another compelling benefit of using graphic calculators in A-level maths is the potential to encourage experimentation and discussion among your students. When they’re independently exploring and interacting with the subject matter, they’ll feel more engaged and excited, which makes for better learning.
Furthermore, graphic handsets such as the Casio fx-CG50 offer a range of extra functions beyond graphing capabilities.
Having the option to import data, display charts, do random sampling and run advanced probability distributions, for example, helps students extend their learning and achieve deeper understanding of complex topics.
We understand that making the shift from a scientific to a graphic calculator isn’t always easy for students. That’s why we’ve put together a range of resources to help with this transition, including a list of key settings that will help students make the most of the Casio fx-CG50.
This includes things like:
- Using the add and subtract buttons to zoom in and out
- Knowing how to set a square scale
- Familiarity with basic calculator settings and functions
Casio also provides resources for teachers who want to make sure they’re comfortable with graphing technology before introducing it to their classes.
Our fx-CG50 training sessions are led by experts and focus on how the calculator can support learning of a specific A-level maths topic.
You can book your place here.