Why do I use the TI-Nspire CAS Touchpad in my classroom? Why would a parent want to get the TI-Nspire or TI-Nspire CAS for their child? Or even more generally, why should middle school through college teachers and students use graphing calculator technology frequently?
1. RESEARCH shows it to be beneficial (and is not harmful to basic arithmetic skills) to all aspects of mathematical learning.
Independent research firms and major universities have done studies to learn about the effectiveness of graphing calculators on math achievement. Their findings?
-- When teachers incorporate graphing calculators into curriculum more often, and when students have more access to graphing calculators, math achievement increases (1,2).
-- Students who receive instruction using graphing calculators perform as well or significantly better on key math skills(3). Students using graphing calculators during class instruction did as well or better on conceptual, problem solving and operational math skills than those who did not use graphing calculators.
-- Students using graphing calculators during instruction -- but not during assessment -- performed as well or better in all five math skills areas(3), indicating that student math skills did not suffer without calculator use specifically during assessment.
-- Students who use graphing calculators have significantly better attitudes toward math than those who do not use graphing calculators(3).
(1) "Impact of Handheld Graphing Calculator Use on Student Achievement in Beginning Algebra," Heller Research Associates, January 2006
(2) "Effectiveness of Graphing Calculators in K-12 Mathematics Achievement," Empirical Education Incorporated (EEI), November 2005
(3) "A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Calculators on Students' Achievement and Attitude Levels in Precollege Mathematics Classes," Aimee Ellington, November 2003
Update: But what about specific research about the TI-Nspire? Since I first wrote this blog entry more research has been done. You can now find specific experimental research, case studies, qualitative research, and the research basis for the TI-Nspire. There is also research specifically for CAS (computer algebra system). Click the above links over the words to read more.
The following is a quote from another website [with some comments embedded]: "In fact, a substantial body of educational research now indicates that graphing calculators can have significant benefits for mathematics learning. Research shows that students using graphing calculators develop flexible strategies for problem solving and a deeper appreciation of mathematical meaning than students who do not use graphing calculators (Ellington, 2003; Khoju, Jaciw, and Miller, 2005). In addition, students who use graphing calculators are better able to understand variables and functions
[function notation is promoted by the TI-Nspire better than any other device I know. With the TI-81/82/83/84 you would graph y1, y2, but with the Nspire you graph or define f1(x), or even g(x), etc.],
solve algebra problems in applied contexts [There are a large number of these types of problems available on TI-math.com and coming soon there are some great NASA questions and activities with the TI-Nspire],
interpret graphs, and move among varied representations [multiple representation is the hallmark of the TI-Nspire] —that is from graphs to tables to equations—than students who do not have access to the technology....
Research from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) has consistently shown that at the eighth grade level frequent use of calculators is associated with greater mathematics achievement. Moreover, research shows that teachers and students who used graphing calculators most frequently learned the most. On the NAEP assessment, 8th graders whose teachers reported that calculators were used almost every day scored the highest (NCES, 2001). Similarly, in examining an implementation that aligned graphing technology with a comprehensive math curriculum, Heller found that daily use of graphing calculators is more effective than infrequent use (Heller, 2005).
[My 8th grade daughter has been enjoying her TI-Nspire CAS for some time now. It is true that our state end-of-course assessment for algebra doesn't permit the use of CAS, but the TI-Nspire is permitted. The TI-Nspire CAS is allowed on the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams. With the wealth of Math Nspired activities available (and more coming soon) that tackle the tough-to-teach and tough-to-learn topics, I'm certain this research will be even more true today. These activities are easy to use by teachers who do not have just about any experience with the Nspire.]Research shows that the association between frequent graphing calculator use and high achievement holds true for a wide variety of grade levels, socio-economic backgrounds, geographic locations, and mathematical topics (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001; Ellington, 2003)."
Added to all of these general things about graphing calculators, consider also what the TI-Nspire Navigator brings to education. Many schools are considering 'clickers for the classroom' or student response systems. I'm sure there is a lot of research that has been done to show the benefits of the enhanced engagement of students gained with clickers. These clicker systems are typically expensive and limited in their use. However, I've found that for a comparable price, the TI-Nspire Navigator and TI-Nspire handheld are more robust than any clicker system. This Navigator system is versatile at improving documented formative assessment through quick polls were students can enter mathematics in the way that it naturally looks, automatic screen captures, and sending and receiving files. It has enabled me to get feedback from a quiet class and get 100% involvement in the class where one student would often blurt an answer before others had time to think.
Dick, Thomas P. (1996). Much More than a Toy. Graphing Calculators in Secondary school Calculus. In P. Gómez and B. Waits (Eds.), Roles of Calculators in the Classroom pp 31-46). Una Empresa Docente.
Ellington, A. J. (2003). A meta-analysis of the effects of calculators on students' achievement and attitude levels in precollege mathematics classes. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education. 34(5), 433-463.
Heller, J. L., Curtis, D. A., Jaffe, R., & Verboncoeur, C. J. (2005). Impact of handheld graphing calculator use on student achievement in algebra 1: Heller Research Associates.
Khoju, M., Jaciw, A., & Miller, G. I. (2005). Effectiveness of graphing calculators in K-12 mathematics achievement: A systematic review. Palo Alto, CA: Empirical Education, Inc.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2001). The nation’s report card: Mathematics 2000. (No. NCES 2001-571). Washington DC: U.S. Department of Education.
UPDATE April 14, 2011: Thanks to a recent discussion on the Nspire Google Group, I've been made aware of additional research with findings available online. These sites include a detailed mixed method long term study in Scotland and is available at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/
The lead researcher "observed that teachers changed their teaching methods dramatically when using TI-Nspire, both the way they taught each topic and the way they teach in general. They found that the use of the Npires together with a move towards an investigative approach with more opportunity for questioning and discussion led to a deepening in students' understanding, an increased pace of learning and an increase in motivation and engagement across all ability
levels." A brief summary is available here.