fx-9750GIII Menu Exploration Series Pt 2 – Run/Matrix and Statistics

I have run into many teachers and students who have never worked with Casio calculators (which is a shame – they are the best). Many don’t because they are mandated to use another brand or, they grew up using a specific type of calculator and don’t want to change. I myself, when teaching in Virginia, was mandated to use another brand (TI) and until I was exposed to Casio, didn’t really think about changing. But – now it makes me a little sad to still see people using the same TI models I used back in college and my first 15 years of teaching (we are talking late 80’s and 90’s) – models that haven’t changed much and are still, to this day, confusing as heck.

Therefore, I am doing what I like to consider a series of PSAs – creating a series of posts where I am going to explore the newest model of Casio graphing calculators, the fx-9750GIII, from a menu-icon approach. Casio graphing calculators are menu-driven, which is part of why they are so easy to use compared to other models. Whatever menu you choose, all the functions and tools you need are right in that menu and on the screen, easily found instead of hunting for a button somewhere on the calculator that might, or might not, give you an option you need.

For the next several blog posts, I am going to choose 2 menu icons from the fx-9750GIII graphing calculator to look at in depth. I will share a video for each within the blog post and also post just a summary of the basic functionality/purpose of the icons. By the end of the series, you will have a better understanding of most of the menu icons (most used ones), and, because of Casio’s consistency, you will also understand all of their other graphing calculator models as well!! Win-win.

Today I want to focus on the first two icons in the menu – Run Matrix and Statistics. Run-Matrix is where you do calculations of all types, from basic computations to logs, summations, integrals and matrices. You can create and save lists and matrices in Run-Matrix that can be used in other menus, such as statistics. The Statistics menu is where you enter data in the form of lists and table. You can then perform statistical calculations (one- and two-variable statistics, create regression, look at multiple types of statistical plots (scatter, pie, histogram, etc.), perform statistical tests and analyze data in several ways.

Below are two short videos – one on using the Run-Matrix menu and the other on the Statistics Menu. The goal in both videos is to give an overview of what you can do and more importantly, demonstrate how easy it is to find what you need because of the way Casio keeps everything right at your fingertips within the menu icon itself.

Run-Matrix Menu Icon Overview
Statistics Menu Icon Overview

Graphing Calculator – A Closer Look (Part 1 in a continuing series on the fx-9750GIII)

I get asked a lot of questions about Casio calculators. There are a lot of misconceptions about Casio graphing calculators, mainly due to the fact that TI calculators have been pushed and forced on everyone and Casio, for whatever reason, is deemed inferior. I first want to set the record straight on a few things – 1) Casio is in fact a superior calculator brand, and in almost every country OTHER than the U.S., is the top selling brand. 2) Casio actually invented the world’s first electronic relay calculator back in 1957 (see image). TI created the first hand-held electronic calculator in the late 1960’s, but 3) Casio actually created the first graphing calculator in 1985, the fx-7000G, which was the first commercially-viable graphing calculator. 

Anyway, long and short of it, Casio has been around a long time in the calculator market and has been an innovator in the field, and, more importantly, continues to improve and update their calculators to keep up with the ever changing technology demands. Which leads me to the newest graphing calculator model, the fx-9750GIII. I have already done a couple posts about this calculator, but I’ve decided to do a continuing series on it and highlight different parts and menu-options to give those of you unfamiliar with Casio graphing calculators a better sense of how they work. I run into teachers who are ‘afraid of the Casio’ because they are only familiar with a TI, but their students are using Casio (because they are more affordable and more intuitive to use) . This is for those teachers so you can support your students. And maybe, just maybe, it will change your mind and you will make the switch like I did about 15 years ago. There are other, better options, than a TI (from personal use of both, this is my biased opinion).

Today I wanted to just introduce you to the basic buttons of the calculator itself, the fx-9750GIII. Those of you familiar with Casio calculators will already be familiar with the buttons – one of the great things about Casio is functionality is pretty consistent across models, with the difference being in memory, number of menu options, display size, color, etc. There is a Quick User Guide available as well which is a great way to start exploring the menu icons and functionality. I will be exploring specific menu icons in the upcoming posts as part of the series on the fx-9750GIII so stay tuned!

Here’s a short video that looks at the layout and buttons on the fx-9750GIII.

If you aren’t busy tonight, we also have a free webinar where we will be looking at real-world data collection and using the Statistics Menu Icon on the fx-9750GIII. Register here.

STEM – Exploring Resources

Science

STEM is one of those ‘buzz’ acronyms floating around in education. You see it everywhere and there is a constant push from states/schools/education leaders to focus on “STEM Education”. But what does that mean? Those of us in education know that the acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Meaning the things students are focusing on in STEM classes and/or activities are designed to provide them with experiences related to these fields and will hopefully spark their interest in future careers in these fields.

Technology

If you are a parent, you may not necessarily know what the acronym means, but you most likely “know” that you want to get your child into STEM classes or activities. It means they are on a track for future career success. At least this is definitely the impression that all the stress and publicity around STEM implies.

I thought I would take some time in today’s post, especially because tonight’s “Equity in Education” webinar that Casio and The Benjamin Banner Association (Register here) are hosting is specifically focused on a STEM program for Black girls, so it just got me thinking that perhaps STEM needed a bit more explanation. I also want to provide some resources.

Let’s start with an official ‘definition’. According to the U.S. Department of Education :

In an ever-changing, increasingly complex world, it’s more important than ever that our nation’s youth are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions. These are the kinds of skills that students develop in science, technology, engineering, and math—disciplines collectively known as STEM. If we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers have the ability to understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and to meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, building students’ skills, content knowledge, and fluency in STEM fields is essential.

U.S. Department of Education, STEM Education Initiative
Engineering

So, if we try to extrapolate, STEM Education is really about providing opportunities for problem-solving, critical thinking, analysis, collaboration with others, and basically real-world problems and experiences. The content areas of focus mentioned (and there are variations – STREAM and STEAM, which include Reading and Art) are the key areas that are most needed in the workforce we are suppose to be preparing students for.

Does that mean that classes/subjects not classified as STEM are not worthy of learning? No. In fact STEM ideas can be integrated in any subject. To me, STEM is really about helping students become problem-solvers, no matter the subject. Learning experiences should not have one-answer, but instead require analysis, input from others, maybe multiple possible solutions, and justification for conclusions. Students should use technology, data, other tools, to find solutions and explain their thinking.

Math

As a way to clarify it for myself the difference between learning a subject or learning with a STEM focus, I think of math teaching/learning. Math is not automatically STEM Education just because it’s in the acronym. UNLESS you are teaching math in a way that connects the mathematical content to applications in the world of that content, and more importantly, and you are providing students ways to engage in mathematics that includes REAL problem-solving, multiple solutions, multiple representations, technology, justification, collaboration and real-world application, you are NOT providing STEM Education. Learning math is not STEM if it’s just process, skill, drill-and-kill and memorization. A student leaving a math class who can pass a standardized test but can’t see the algebra present in a sale at the mall, or understand the geometric constructs and properties that allow a bridge to support all those cars, is not getting a STEM education.

STEM

But – I am clearly not an expert on STEM, and am honestly still trying to wrap my head around what STEM looks like in teaching, particularly in a math classroom. For those of you wanting to delve more into what STEM (or STEAM or STREAM) can mean and look like in your own classroom or school or topic area,, here are some links and resources I found that might give you more insight.

Not an exhaustive list by any means, but at least a start with some ideas and projects to think about.

Seeing the Math in the World Around Us – Relevance Matters

I’ve been part of Casio’s Equity in Education Webinar Series (in partnership with TODOS Math for All and The Benjamin Banneker Association) and a theme that comes up repeatedly, and one that shouldn’t be surprising, is that we need to be acknowledging and using the cultural backgrounds of students and the world they live in as a foundation for mathematical learning. So, not just using problems from textbooks and curriculums, which often leave many students out of the ‘context’, but asking students about what interests them and what they see as issues from their own experiences, and turning these into mathematical learning opportunities. Making math relevant and applicable, and thus more memorable and usable. In this process, students understand mathematical concepts more deeply.

As noted in last night’s webinar, “Being an Upstander to Inequities in Mathematics Education: Teachers Leading from the Classroom to Implement Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching”, this requires a lot of work and slow and steady change in practice and collaboration with others. You have to be willing to change your practice, look at all students as being capable of learning mathematics and being problem-solvers, and take time to find real-world issues and creating opportunities for students to learn through problems and situations that are relevant to their worlds. It takes shaking up the system – i.e. no more ‘classifying’ students as honors, below level, etc, but instead provide students the same experiences. And, it starts small – be willing to ‘be an upstander’ and change things starting in your own classroom and then bring others in (other teachers, administration) to see the positive change and learning that happens as a result.

One of the more difficult parts of this is being willing to find and/or create problem-solving experiences that matter to students and that also provide mathematical learning relevant. It takes more time. It takes more effort. You are often going against the ‘standardized testing’ curriculum that pervades our math education these days.  There are many resources out there, but as one teacher said in last nights webinar, she asks the students what issues or problems do they see. She then uses those problems to create learning and bring the math. In the process, students are doing more than just math – they are connecting to their world, incorporating multi-disciplinary and multiple representations, and become true problem-solvers. And gaining confidence in their mathematical abilities in the process. Isn’t this what learning should be about? Not mastering a ‘skill’ to pass an arbitrary test, but truly learning and understanding mathematics in a way that is useful for life.

None of this is new to me – it’s how I like to think I have approached mathematical teaching and learning for most of my career, and more so in the last 20 years, as I have matured and grown into my own teaching and understandings of what students need. I learn something new every day from my students, from colleagues and lately from each of these webinars. I am gaining more insight and ideas about being responsive to all students, and listening to students (Olga Torres webinar is a great one to view – Rehumanizing the Math Classroom), and reaffirming beliefs and strategies I have used for years. In turn , I can then implement and share these insights and strategies with others. This to me is the beauty of teaching – it is not only about helping others learn, but about my own constant learning to improve learning experiences for the students and teachers I work with.

Where do you start to find these relevant issues to use and how do you use them to address content standards? As teacher in last night’s webinar said, ask the students first. One problem that she worked with students ideas and concerns and incorporated social justice, (so looking at the problems in the world), was where students were focused on waste and the environment. In a unit on volume and area, they focused on the carboard packaging from online shopping and really explored this in a variety of ways (watch the video – around 25 minutes she starts sharing student problem-solving ideas). Really using the mathematics to help address a concern and problem that impacts the students and the world. Asking students what problems they see in the world around them is a first starting point.

You can also just go outside and look around. As an example, I am at the beach, and the shells that I find on the sand are full of intricate mathematical patterns. So students could explore different things in nature and discover patterns and see connections this way. Depending on the level, you could then incorporate functions and graphs to describe those patterns.

I am currently living in a construction zone, and watching the process of a beach house being built has been fascinating. They put together an entire frame for a floor in less than a day, which might make you think they are doing ‘shoddy’ work. But watching them measure and look at the architectural drawings, and use levels to ensure even floor, and support wall frames with strategically placed pieces of woods to form a triangular support makes you realize there is a plethora of mathematics happening. And it’s not just the geometric shapes, which would be an obvious thing to explore if looking at the structure, but also all the properties of the shapes, similarity, scale, algebraic measures, etc.  This would be a something that students see, so there could be a whole problem-based exploration of the process (from design to plans to build to cost analysis) that make this an incredible problem to explore that is relevant to students. Maybe it’s road construction near them or building repairs or gentrification, but again, something relevant and persistent in the world that students can explore.

In short – start respecting students ideas and the world and cultures in which they live and use these ideas to help them learn mathematics. Make learning relevant. Let students have a voice and make math open doors instead of being a ‘gatekeeper’ (see video) to hold many students back from becoming successful mathematical thinkers.

Here’s the webinar recording from last night. The teachers start sharing at around 23 minutes in, though the first part is really interesting explaining the project and process.

Be sure to check out future webinars and other past recordings, both on equity issues and on incorporating technology into mathematics instruction.

Casio Education Webinar Calendar:  https://www.casioeducation.com/educators/webinars

ClassPad.net Webinar Calendar: https://classpad.us/webinars/

Casio Education Recorded Webinar Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwObzb090vgOhnMYzUx7Dc8bKjxaQC0r8

ClassPad.net Recorded Webinar Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHXT4Hrx0muHxOoJN8F8vDZdgJ337aaRo

Scientific vs. Graphing Calculator – Which One??

It’s still back-to-school season, in a crazy back-to-school time, and I know a lot of parents and students are pondering what tools they need for school. There is often a lot of confusion around whether you should get/use a scientific calculator or a graphing calculator, particularly in high school courses. Middle school tends to recommend scientific calculators, and high school often graphing, and the big question is, what’s the difference? If my child has a scientific calculator from middle school and is heading into high school, will that suffice?

The answer is, it depends.

What I wanted to do in this post is point out some of the differences to perhaps allows for a better decision. There are of course many online calculators as well, but obviously I am using hand-held models in this post for my comparisons. Mainly because not all students have consistent access to online tools (wifi) or phones (and phones are most often NOT allowed in class and definitely not on assessments), and the comparison between scientific vs. graphing is basically the same whether using an online version or a hand-held.

So – what are some of the differences? Many standardized tests limit the calculator students can use to a scientific, and others let students choose either scientific or graphing. For example, ®SAT rallows for a hand-held (not a phone, not a computer) and either graphing or scientific. ®AP has a range of options depending on the subject, but four-function, scientific, and/or graphing are listed. Each state has different calculator restrictions, depending again on the level of the test, but it is often only a scientific or a choice between scientific and/or graphing.

Here are some of the differences:

  • Scientific calculators have much smaller screens (see image) and are often smaller in size
  • Scientific calculators do not have the ability to graph (though the fx-991EX scientific (shown to the left) is an exception because of it’s QR code, so something to think about)
  • Graphing calculators have ability to graph more than just equations – i.e. conics, 3D
  • Many scientific calculators can solve polynomials or simultaneous equations but usually of limited functions/polynomials, but not all
  • Graphing calculators can solve equations, inequalities in multiple ways – i.e. solvers, graphically and entering in values
  • Scientific Calculators can do statistical calculations and regressions but are limited
  • Graphing calculators can do more advanced statistical calculations as well as the basic ones and graph the statistical plots as well
  • Graphing calculators often have the ability to do programming (helpful for computer science classes). Casio’s newest graphing calculator, the fx-9750GIII (shown to the left) has Python programming as an additional option.
  • Some scientific calculators can base specified logarthmic calculations, prime factorizations, ratio calculations, differentiation and integration calcuations, combination and permutation calculations (fx-115ESPlus2 and fx-991EX)
  • There tends to be much more functionality and options in a graphing calculator – for example, spreadsheets, e-activities, exam modes, the ability to do dynamic graphing (in Casio graphing calculators fx-9750GIII, fx-CG50 models)
  • Price-wise, scientific calculators are usually significantly less than graphing, for obvious reasons (the graphing calculators have much more capabilities and memory storage)
  • Some graphing calculators come with color – i.e. the fx-CG10 and fx-CG50 models – this allows for differentiating visually between graphs

There are more differences, but that’s a nice list (check here for a comparison between scientific calculators (Casio vs. TI) and graphing calculators (Casio vs. TI). Basically, think of the graphing calculator as having all the functionality of the scientific calculator but with a lot more additional capabilities, with the most obvious difference being the ability to graph and visualize.

Now we come to how do you decide? To me, it depends what you think you are going to be pursuing as far as mathematics. If your students is thinking of going into the higher levels of mathematics such as Algebra 2, PreCalculus, Calculus, then a graphing calculator might be a wise investment. But, you can’t go wrong, especially in middle school, with a scientific. And, as a math person, I always say why not both, since depending on the school, teacher and/or assessment,  sometimes you might need just a scientific and sometimes you might need a graphing. I realize with all the discussion about equity and access, cost is going to be a huge factor in the decision. But – just looking at the image above, of the Casio scientific and graphing calculators – if you were to purchase both, you are still spending less money than the older, and sadly, most recommended TI graphing calculator options so many are forced into purchasing. From personal experience, teaching in MS and HS, the Casio is much easier to use, can do more, and as you can see, is significantly more affordable, so in my opinion it seems like a no brainer to me. – get both. Of course there are free online calculators, and those are good options (such as ClassPad.net), but only if your child can access them when needed, which is not always the case, and why a hand-held option is still a great way to go.

Anyway, my two cents! Explore and compare on your own (I’ve provided some tools in the links above).

We are having a webinar tonight that explores the three models of scientific calculators that Casio offers, so if you are interested in finding out more about the capabilities, be sure to join us at 6:30 pm EDT (Register Here). We also did a previous webinar on the graphing calculator models, which I have included below. Hopefully now you can make some informed decisions. Check out all the calculators and pricing here: https://www.casioeducation.com/