Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I Nspire? Part 5 - The List

Features that I find worthwhile about the TI-Nspire CAS include:
  • CAS stands for Computer Algebra System. This is great for exploration & discovery of mathematical concepts. It can serve as a ladder to help student reach new mathematical heights.
  • Resolution – it has more pixels than any other TI graphing calculator.
  • The grayscale was nice (color on the software), but now the TI-Nspire CX CAS includes color! This really is extremely helpful for engagement and enhances understanding. With color graphs I've seen freshmen exploring some advanced transformation, and seniors creating amazing 3-D shapes and animations.
  • Images can be inserted.
  • Geometry is integrated. No more going to the computer lab for those geometry classrooms. Now dynamic geometry can be in the hands of of every student! This also means lots of great simulations can be and have been made.
  • Animation and sliders!
  • Notes - makes it so much more of a teaching and learning tool.
  • History preserved. Where did a student go wrong? Copy the history.
  • Computer short cuts, like CTRL C, V, X, S, Z. (There are more shortcuts listed for "Dummies" here.)
  • Content, content, content! There are many inquiry activities that have been written. See or Also there are textbooks that integrate the use of the TI-Nspire, or as in the case of the Pearson/Prentice Hall textbooks for Algebra 1, Alg 2, and Geometry that now also address the Common Core Standards, the book is on the TI-Nspire.
  • Incredibly easy to use data collection. There are so many Vernier probes that automatically work. There is no better way to learn slope or develop an understanding of derivatives and integrals than with real-world applications, like actually walking and seeing data in real-time with a CBR2 motion detector.
  • Demonstrations – powerful visuals & multiple representations
  • Graph function, polar, parametric, implicit, DE slopefields and more on the SAME screen at the same time!
  • Exam acceptance. The TI-Nspire CX CAS is permitted on the AP, PSAT, SAT exam. The TI-Nspire is also allowed on the ACT, IB, and many state end-of-course assessment exams (including Indiana where I'm from). See part 3 blog entry.
Learn more about these, like how to make and use sliders, in the Getting Started or Intermediate Users High School Math workshops this summer. Currently I know I'm hosting one in Indianapolis, and I may be called upon to be the instructor for a workshop near Orlando, Florida in the middle of June.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Trip To KSC for NASA Student Symposium

Last Saturday I was heading back home after an amazing trip with two students who participated in the NASA Explorer School's Student Symposium. One of the students suggested I take pictures of the new TI-Nspire CX CAS as it 'visits' various sites on the trip. The image to the left is the Nspire with the Space Shuttle Endeavor just before its last launch. It is scheduled to take off Monday morning. Especially now that the AP Calculus exam is past, teachers may enjoy incorporating shuttle launch data with the technology they have in their classroom (TI-84 or Nspire) by doing a NASA Math & Science @ Work activity. There is also an algebra 1 activity about for the Space Shuttle Ascent.

Part of the inspiration for doing the research that these two freshmen pursued was the NASA Exploring Space through Math Weightless Wonder activity. They used the TI-Nspire and CBR2 motion detector to consider the parabola formed by a ball rolling on a ramp. I posted their PowerPoint presentation on our school's website.

Besides seeing the Endeavor, some highlights from the trip were hearing from the director of the Kennedy Space Center and former astronaut Robert Cabana, talking to astronaut and physicist Samuel Durrance, and hearing from a panel of NASA scientists and employees to encourage the students to pursue the challenging courses. The students got some great advice.

Update: I just got word about a Google Earth plug-in that lets you watch the space shuttle trajectory in real-time. It is similar to the what can be done with the calculus activity that was mentioned above, except this is LIVE. I think this will be particularly interesting when it takes off and lands. Endeavor is scheduled to land at 2:30 a.m. (Eastern time zone) June 1st, and the last shuttle should launch in July.
It requires the desktop version of Google Earth (free download here):

Once you have Google Earth on your machine, just download the .kmz plugin below to your desktop and click it to start. It’s still in beta-mode so those involved in the development of it at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston would love to have feedback from teachers and students on what they think. Let me know and I'll pass on the feedback.