Key features of graphic calculators for A-level maths
The transition from GCSE to A-level maths can be a demanding time for learners and educators alike.
Students face challenges including building a deeper understanding of core mathematical concepts and navigating more complex exam questions. Teachers, meanwhile, have to take on the responsibility of guiding their A-level maths classes through this time and preparing them for the rigours of exams.
At Casio, we want to do everything we can to make teachers’ and students’ lives easier. That includes sharing insights into how technology can support learning and offering answers to common questions.
One such query relates to graphic calculators, and how students can feel confident that the model they’re using is the best calculator for their needs.
Many students will have become comfortable with using a scientific model – such as those that make up Casio’s ClassWiz range – during their GCSE studies, and might feel unsure about switching to a graphing handset in year 12.
The Casio fx-991 CW is the most advanced handset in our scientific calculator range and the minimum requirement for studying A-level maths.
However, for learners who are operating at greater depth or who want access to the broadest possible range of tools, a graphic calculator such as the Casio fx-CG50 is a more powerful option.
When students have the capability to easily plot and analyse graphs, it opens up a world of possibilities to visualise mathematical problems in different ways. As well as contributing to stronger understanding, this can prompt discussion and encourage learners to experiment with different values and parameters in graphs.
Having graphing functionality on their calculator can also offer practical benefits for students in exams. When faced with a question that asks them to solve an equation such as sin x = tan x within a given range, for example, students might not feel entirely sure about how many answers they need to give.
They can always find one solution by working through the equation algebraically, but this might not be enough to get full marks. By graphing the equation on a calculator, they can instantly see how many points of intersection exist. What’s more, they can feel confident that the graph they’re looking at is accurate, which isn’t always the case when drawing by hand.
We’ve spoken to lots of teachers and mathematicians about the finer points of studying A-level maths. One of the things we’ve learned is that students benefit greatly from having a range of options to explore the challenging topics they will encounter in years 12 and 13.
Let’s take statistics as an example. The range of functionality available on graphic calculators includes the option to calculate probability distributions and graph the results.
This allows students to see a clear representation of the values across the graph so they can find the sum of the figures and complete other calculations with greater speed and efficiency.
One of the key features of the fx-CG50 is the Distribution app, which offers the capability to visualise both discrete and continuous distributions in graph form.
A calculator with graphing capability is also a powerful tool for exploring sequences, a topic that becomes more complicated at A-level as students are expected to combine it with other areas of their learning.
The Recursion app on the fx-CG50 has a number of uses when studying sequences, including quickly calculating the sum of a sequence and finding when a given sequence exceeds a specific value.
If you’re interested in using graphic calculators in your A-level maths classes and want to build your confidence with the fx-CG50, the best way to do it is with specialist training.
Casio offers free, one-hour training sessions led by experts, which put the power of this calculator into context with A-level question demonstrations.
You can sign up here.