Rethinking Summer School – Equity & Promoting Student Learning

Summer school – I know that it conjures up bad thoughts in most of our minds. Having to go to summer school usually means you failed a course or a grade and you have to make it up.  But – do only the ‘failures’ or the ‘bad kids’ need to go to summer school? Is that what summer school is for? This is what most of us think of when we consider summer school, when in reality, summer school should be a place where all students could go to keep on track, get ahead, or learn some new things. Research shows that the 3-month summer break is often a huge learning set-back for many students, particularly minority students and students living in poverty, causing a widening of the achievement gap, in part because these students are often denied opportunities for summer ‘enrichment’ courses or camps. Summer school options are usually focused on remediation and failures, and not very enticing for students to attend voluntarily, and so we have most students taking a 3 month break from any learning. But what if we approached summer school differently? What if it weren’t a punishment, but rather a place where students were motivated by other students or college student mentors and were engaged in new and interesting topics that kept them learning?

I found this really motivating TedTalk by Karim Abouelnaga, who from his own experiences with school, decided to try to change the way we rethink summer school. It’s not too late, even for this year, for those of you educators out there getting ready for this years summer school to consider making some changes that would make summer school a learning opportunity for all students.

Plotting Vertical Lines – Casio Prizm vs TI-84

To play off of the #NCTMannual Calculator Face-off challenge, I am going to try to post a weekly comparison of Casio calculators compared to TI calculators. My thoughts on this, as expressed in my recent post, Casio vs. TI – Calculator Face-off NCTM and Beyond, are that too many teachers and schools are stuck in the mind-set that TI is the ONLY option for calculators out there.  This is clearly not the case, and also, clearly NOT the best choice in calculators when you take into consideration functionality and affordability, especially to address technology equity issues that are such a hugeconcern in schools.  Casio is simply more affordable, easier to use, and has better functionality.

With that in mind, I want to keep it up-front and center so that those of you out there in the market for calculators can actually see side-by-side comparisons and make educated decisions vs. the “it’s what we always do” type of decisions.

Side Note: We are getting some “feedback” from our TI-users, who are not happy about these comparisons – probably because they are new to being challenged. Granted, when comparing calculators from any vendor, there are going to be certain concepts or procedures that might be faster and and maybe more efficient when on one compared to the other – no calculator will always be the winner -it’s bound to happen. But – overall, and consistently, based on teacher and student feedback and our own personal experiences with both,  Casio is superior in it’s functionality, is definitely more affordable, and is easier for students to use because it is much more intuitive and there is less hunt-and-find-the-right-menu going on. It’s right there on the screen with a Casio, not hidden in apps or ‘math’ or ‘test’ buttons.  If we consider why we use technology in the mathematics classroom – it’s NOT to ‘get the answer’ (or shouldn’t be!), it’s about using technology appropriately to allow students to be more efficient in their process so they can explore, discover , make conjectures, test hypothesis, and make comparisons. Getting bogged down in “where do I find this?” is not conducive to productive student learning and exploration.

There are several Casio vs. TI comparisons videos already – all of them currently Prizm vs. TI-84.  I am adding today’s video, where I compare how to plot a vertical line on the Prizm vs. the TI-84. You will note the process is similar, with a significant difference being Casio creates a true plot of a vertical line, where you can find actual points on the plot, and TI is only a drawing. It is not possible to use the “drawing” to find specific coordinate points on the plot accurately or efficiently.

Here’s this weeks video comparison.  Stay tuned for future comparisons with the Prizm and other Casio Calculators.


Benjamin Banneker Association & NCTM

imagesNCTM San Francisco is fast approaching (April 13-16) and among the many things I am looking forward to is the opportunity to connect with the Benjamin Banneker Association (BBA) members at their 30th-year anniversary celebration. Casio is proud to help support this group that does so much work ensuring mathematics education equity and quality for students, in particular African-American students, through their work with leadership and professional development for teachers. For those of you unfamiliar with the BBA, they are a non-profit organization that strives to help provide the highest quality mathematics education so all students develop self-confidence, enthusiasm and perseverance in their own mathematical abilities. They have been supporting math education and teachers for 30 years, which is impressive, and we at Casio are excited to have the opportunity to support their endeavors a little more, as we believe strongly in quality math education and leveling the playing field for all students, something we strive to do by putting affordable technology into the hands of all students.

When I found out that I would get to be a part of the 30th-anniversary P.E.A.R.L. Reception and Celebration (Pursuing Excellence, Advocacy, and Revolutionary Leadership) I wanted to find out a bit more about who Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was and how this person represented what the BBA stood for – advocacy for math education. Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was a free black man, a self-educated mathematician, scientist and astronomer. He was well-known for the almanacs he published between 1792 – 1797, where he posted about medicines and medical treatment, astronomical calculations as well as opinion pieces, literature and tidal information used by fisherman. Here are several links that give more details about Benjamin Banneker and his accomplishments:


The accomplishments that stood out the most for me were the following:download

  • Banneker invented America’s first clock in the 1752. Wow! The story goes that he borrowed a pocket-watch from an acquaintance, took it apart to study it’s parts and how it worked, put it back together and returned it. Then he built a clock, based on what he had learned from the watch, made completely out of wood. The clock was precise and worked for more than 50 years. And it was made out of wood!
  • He correctly predicted the 1789 solar eclipse, and his correct prediction contradicted those of well-known mathematicians and astronomers.  This from a self-taught man.
  • He wrote to Thomas Jefferson, while Jefferson was Secretary of State, in support of civil rights for African-Americans and to dispel the beliefs about the intelligence of the black man and to push for viewing African-Americans as more than slaves. His letter chided Jefferson and others for thinking slaves and blacks as “less” , and included a copy of his almanac to prove his point. He also called the leaders hypocritical, when they were fighting oppression and enslavement by England when they themselves were enslaving African-Americans.  It was a powerful letter, and one that Jefferson was so moved by, he actually responded and also forwarded Banneker’s almanac to the Secretary of the French Academy of Sciences “because I considered it as a document to which your whole colour had a right for their justification against the doubts which have been entertained of them.”
  • Banneker was recommended by Jefferson to be part of the surveying team that laid out Washington, D. C., our Nations Capital. (which is depicted in the picture I put at the top of this post).

The BBA has chosen a person who valued education, so much so that he taught himself much of what he learned and then passed it along to others through his writings and almanacs.  He fought for equality and recognition for the African-American, standing up to powerful leaders like Thomas Jefferson at a time where he could have been at great risk. He helped build our nation – from the first clock to the laying out of our Nations Capital. A powerful leader, always learning, always sharing his knowledge to help others, and always striving to bring equality and recognition to African-Americans. The BBA is celebrating 30-years of continuing Benjamin Banneker’s vision. Congratulations! I know I speak for Casio when I say we are glad we can be a part of this and hope that our continued support will help BBA, and the teachers and students they touch, reach their goals going forward.