Making the most of the new ClassWiz range
With Casio’s ClassWiz range of scientific calculators recently getting a significant redesign, it seems like the perfect time to talk about what these upgraded models can do and the benefits they offer for teachers and students alike.
We asked mathematician Simon May for his thoughts on the key features and advantages of the new ClassWiz series.
A major change that has been implemented with the new CW ClassWiz range is the introduction of a new menu structure to access functions. While common functionality, such as the trigonometric functions sin, cos and tan, still have their own dedicated keys, many other features – including functional analysis, probability and conversion – are now listed in a menu accessed via the new Catalog key.
This lets students discover their calculator in a way that they will already be familiar with from other electronic devices that have menu structures. Once they know that every feature is either labelled on the keys as before or listed in the new menu, students can freely explore their device to see what it can do.
As well as making life easier and enabling more intuitive learning for students, this can be a big classroom time-saver for teachers. Gone are the days of having to explain how certain functions are accessed through a sequence of key presses. Now, you can encourage students to delve into the menu and see what they can find for themselves.
“From a usability point of view, I think it’s a huge improvement,” Simon told us. “It’s a lot more accessible, even if sometimes there are more key presses.”
It’s not just the key layout and menu options that have changed in the new ClassWiz range. There are upgrades to functionality, too, which Simon illustrated for us with some mathematical examples.
A significant addition to Casio’s scientific calculators is the Function key, which offers the ability to define two functions as before, but also to manipulate and evaluate these functions in several different modes.
On previous handsets, it was only possible to define and evaluate functions in this way within Table.
Going a step further, you can also use this new key to define functions in terms of another function.
“That is brand new functionality, and it’s really nice because it enables teachers and students to do a lot more on the handset and to understand a lot more,” Simon said.
The Format key is another useful improvement to the ClassWiz range, replacing the S↔D (standard to decimal) button found on previous handsets.
It not only allows you to take a calculated value and represent the answer in either standard or decimal format, but also alternatively as an improper or mixed fraction. So students can calculate 9÷7, for example, and use the ‘Format’ key to display the answer as 9⁄7, 1 2⁄7 or 1.286 to 3d.p.
This functionality was available on previous handsets, but only accessible through a sequence of different key presses. The Format key brings it all together in one place.
Another exciting aspect of this key is its ability to effectively respond to the user’s needs. After completing a calculation, the Format button will provide different options, based on the previous inputs and the resulting value.
A whole number will lead to menu options including prime factor decomposition, for example, while a decimal or fraction such as 2.5 can make use of sexagesimal conversion, to display a time value of 2h 30′ 0″.
On the fx-83/85GT CW models, it’s also possible to enter recurring decimals and choose how they’re displayed. So 1.3 recurring, for example, can be calculated as 4⁄3, and the Format menu provides the option to turn it back into a recurring decimal.
Introducing new ClassWiz models
As for the question of when is the best time to introduce the new ClassWiz range to particular year groups, we know teachers will always be the best-placed to answer this. You know your students, their learning patterns and how well they respond to different methods in the classroom.
Looking at this question from a purely academic perspective, Simon’s view was that the earlier these upgraded models can be introduced, the better. We worked with Simon to host some webinars on the new range, and it was great to see so many colleagues joining and giving lots of positive feedback.
- I like the new functionality
- Great webinar… I can see why the upgrade is a positive move
- I like the physical design of the front of the calculator
- From our work with year 7 – 9 students, they have responded well to the new fx-85GT CW calculator
While GCSE classes will get the most out of these devices in terms of functionality, year 7 students can also use the basic calculator features of the ClassWiz range and explore the more advanced tools at their own pace.
Casio’s recommendation for GCSE students who have not yet adopted graphing technology is the fx-991 CW, while year 7 students will find all the functionality they need on the fx-83/85GT CW.
For GCSE students who are used to the previous ClassWiz models, Simon acknowledged the benefits of sticking with what they know. However, he also noted that the design and user-friendly focus of the new handsets can ease the transition, and students can get comfortable with using them in quite a short period of time.
Crucially, the design and key layout of the updated fx-83/85GT CW and fx-991 CW models is identical, with only a few differences in labelling. The fx-991 CW is the minimum requirement for A-level maths, so students making the step up in year 12 will benefit from already being familiar with the fx-83/85GT CW.
You can find plenty of information about the upgraded models on our website, including a selection of video tutorials on the dedicated ClassWiz page.
If you have any specific questions about our calculators and your school’s technology needs, you can always contact us.