With the start of term approaching, do you know your calculator options?
It’s that time of year again: teachers, parents and (perhaps to a lesser degree) students are thinking about back to school and how to get the term off to the best possible start.
We can imagine that, for maths teachers, this can often lead to questions about calculators, and what devices are best-suited to learners of varying abilities and at different stages in their education.
Casio provides a range of powerful technology to support all classes and students. We also like to share expert insights into the features, benefits and classroom applications of specific calculator models, alongside dedicated resources and support to help you gain maximum benefit from your devices.
Ongoing support from year 7 to GCSE
During key stage 3, a reliable calculator is a powerful tool for students who are encountering core mathematical concepts for the first time and consolidating their knowledge ahead of the challenges of the GCSE years.
The fx-83/85GT CW models in Casio’s new ClassWiz range are excellent options for teachers seeking a well-equipped handset offering all the functionality students will need as they start their secondary education.
Recent updates to all scientific calculators across the ClassWiz series have amplified their benefits for teachers and students alike. We know some teachers were sceptical about the upgrade, but through webinars and other ongoing support we’ll be demonstrating how advantageous the changes should be.
The addition of the Function key, for example, opens up new possibilities to define and evaluate functions outside of Table, and to analyse functions in terms of another function.
Mathematician Simon May also highlighted the value of this key for reducing the risk of manual input errors.
“The Function key makes life a lot easier, simply because you don’t have to input values and possibly make an input mistake,” he said. “So if you have a quadratic such as and you want to evaluate that, you can, without having to actually input the equation and enter a number where x is.”
Tackling advanced GCSE and A-level learning
The fx-83/85 models are powerful enough for a large proportion of students to navigate the GCSE maths syllabus and do well in their exams.
We recommend the fx-991 CW over the fx-83/85 for those sitting higher-tier papers and planning to progress to A-level. These students will benefit from the more advanced capabilities of the fx-991, or better yet our colour graphic calculator the fx-CG50. Indeed, A-level students who have been using the fx-83/85 will need to transition to at least the fx-991 before the start of year 12.
Users of these higher-spec models will see the advantages in various areas of their mathematical learning, while teachers will benefit from greater efficiency and depth in lessons.
When working with a topic such as simultaneous equations, the graphing capability available on the fx-CG50 allows stronger connections with the maths and deeper understanding.
Rather than relying on rote learning and following formulaic, not particularly engaging processes, students can graph the different variables in the equation and get instant visual feedback on how they relate and interact with one another.
“There are three different ways of approaching simultaneous equations on the fx-CG50: graphically, numerically and even within the Equation function, which specifically is set up to solve simultaneous equations,” Simon elaborated. “And it will present answers in exact form if needed, or as decimals.”
As powerful as they are, it’s important to always remember that calculators are only a support for learning. Like any tool, their effectiveness depends on how they’re used.
Everything starts with the teacher, so you need to feel completely comfortable with any calculator being used in your classroom.
One point Simon was particularly keen to stress is that getting the best out of a calculator often comes down to using it efficiently. This relies on teachers and students having a good understanding of what their handset is capable of, so when they’re faced with a question, they instantly know how the calculator can help them.
This is an area where Casio wants to provide as much support as possible, to help you and your students maximise the benefits of your calculators by knowing everything they can do.
For the growing number of schools and students adopting graphing technology, we offer free, expert-led training sessions that provide an introduction to the fx-CG50. These events showcase some of the key features of the handset and how they can be applied to particular A-level maths topics.
You can sign up here.
We also have some webinars coming up that will focus on the scientific calculators in the ClassWiz range, an area where we’ll be looking to offer more support in the near future.
To find out more about available resources that can help you get the best out of Casio calculators, just contact us.