As my last post stated, it’s that time of year for standardized testing. As part of this, certain states require that students use calculators that have been set to exam mode. This means that certain features of the calculator have been ‘turned off’ or are inaccessible to students while the exam is going on. I remember spending hours setting all my calculators to exam mode for students and then having to spend hours undoing that once exams were over – quite a pain.

The beautiful thing about the CG50 Prizm graphing calculator is that you never have to undo the exam mode – it will automatically turn off exam mode after 12 hours. Which means, you can set it, students can take their test, and then next day, the calculator is ready to go again with full functionality restored. Another nice feature is that when the calculator is in exam mode, you can actually see it on the screen – there is a green highlighted border when in exam mode. This makes it easy to walk around and visually check that the calculators are indeed still in exam mode (or were set to exam mode to begin with, if you have your students do the process for you).

I made a quick video on how to put a CG50 Prizm into exam mode. I apologize for the lighting – very hard to film the actual calculator (vs. emulator) while holding my computer video camera…and those shadows?!! But – hopefully you can get the gist of things!!

One of the key things we try to help students with when studying functions is the idea of multiple representations – i.e. graphical, symbolic (equation) and table. Ideally, we want students to be able to discern what the function represents or looks at no matter what representation they are given, and to be able to find patterns and important components about that functions from all representations. Students should never learn about functions just through graphing, or just through symbolic manipulations or just through looking at data points in a table – they should be able to go back and forth and determine which representation is the most useful for the situation.

Unfortunately, too often, the emphasis is on one representation at a time, or at most 2. Let’s look at the graph and find the minimum, maximum, or intersection. Or, let’s find the roots of a quadratic by factoring, or symbolic manipulation. Or, here’s a table of points, where are the x-intercepts or the y-intercepts? Ideally, we want students to be able to look at all of these representations simultaneously so that they see the relationships between the representations and come to understand what the points represent in the table, in the equation, or in the graph.

Technology is one way to show all these representations at the same time, and then quickly manipulate and explore. There are obviously many technology tools out there, but as I have stated in previous posts, the most accessible technology tool for most students and teachers is the graphing calculator, not only because of it’s affordability, but because it is a tool most students have readily available. It would be nice if all students had computers or tablets for daily classroom use, but that is still NOT the reality.

I have put together a quick video showing Casio’s three graphing calculators – the fx-9750GII, the fx-9860GII, and the CG10/20 or Casio Prizm, and how they can display the equation, graph and table representations of a function on one screen. No matter which model you have, you can achieve the same functionality, allowing students to work with multiple representations and explore relationships quickly and efficiently.

I am currently teaching a course at Drexel University and we are starting a unit on circles. I loved using Sketchpad when teaching because it allowed for dynamic manipulation of objects (shapes, functions) so that students could visually see the impact of variables to the shape, size, position of the object. Unfortunately, my students (math teachers in a Masters Math Teaching Program) do not have access to Sketchpad, though one does use Geogebra, and as this is a course focused on teaching, they need to use what they have access to in their own classrooms with their students. For many of them this does not involve any technology at all, which is sad, but for some, they do have access to graphing calculators.

Naturally, this got me exploring what the graphing calculators could do, and surprise, surprise, I noticed quite a difference between the Casio Prizm and the TI-84+CE graphing calculators, which are the ones my class seems to have. I was investigating conics, and in particular circles, and what options the graphing calculators gave me, especially when thinking about dynamically modifying the variables to see how each impacts the graph of the circle. Here’s is a quick summary of what I found:

Both TI-84 & Casio Prizm can graph conics (circles, ellipses, hyperbola, and parabola, though how to access these conic graphs is different on both.

It is more apparent/easy to find on the Casio (there is a Conic Graph menu).

TI requires knowing that there is a Conic app in the app menu, which is a button on the calculator. It is not seen from the main screen, and if you don’t know it exists, you won’t know it’s available.

Both provide more than one equation form for each conic.

Both show the graph of the conic, but how is very different.

Casio shows the graph on the coordinate grid, where you can see the whole grid, see values on each axis, and identify quadrant and key points on the graph

TI shows the graph in the entire window with a weird yellow frame around it. It is difficult to determine where on the coordinate grid the graph appears – there are axis marks, but no values, not origin, making it difficult for students to understand where on the coordinate grid the graph is. Very difficult to identify quadrant and key points on the graph.

Both allow you to enter different values for each coefficient variable,

Casio has a modify feature that allows you to see the equation, graph, and coefficient variables on one screen. You can then modify one coefficient at a time and see it dynamically change on the graph, allowing students to visually see how each impacts the graph and see the conic change shape, location, and/or size.

TI84+CE only shows the graph or the equation/coefficients – never together. You have to go back and forth between them when changing values. The TI does not clearly show where on the grid the graph is, does not show a size change (all conics look the same size, but the grid scale is changing). It’s actually very confusing and would be difficult to help student visually see the impact of changing coefficient variables on the size, location and shape.

Below is a video I made showing how to graph a circle and modify the coefficients on both calculators so you can see the differences I am talking about.

Hopefully you will come to the same conclusion I did – Casio Prizm is far superior when graphing conics than the TI84+CE.

It being the start of the school year where everyone is getting their school supplies, one question that gets asked by parents and students seeking to get a graphing calculator is which one should I buy? I’ve already done several posts comparing Casio graphing calculators to TI graphing calculators, so there’s no question when comparing these – buy Casio! So….now that you’ve made the smart choice to go with Casio, which of the models is the right one for you? What’s the difference, aside from the cost? If you go with the most affordable version, the fx-9750GII, will you be able to do all the things you need to do in your math and/or science courses? What’s the advantage of the fx-CasioPrizm model, that costs a bit more, over the other two?

Great questions – questions we get frequently, especially when we are out at workshops and conferences. The short answer is they will all do what you need in all K-12 courses and on standardized tests (ACT, SAT to name a couple), so you wouldn’t go wrong purchasing any of the three. And, they all follow the same keystrokes, so knowing one means you know the others. But, there are some differences, which might matter to you, depending on your preferences. You can see a complete comparison of all our graphing calculators to each other and to the TI graphing calculators in our program book, pg 16-17.

What I have done in this post is compile a short list of the major differences between the three Casio calculators (Casio Prizm, fx-9860GII, fx-9750GII) and made a quick video so you can see both their similarities and their differences.

This is just a few of the features that differ. The obvious one being color in the Prizm, the size of the display, the Flash Memory capabilities. But for the most part, if you check out the complete list of features, you will see that all three they have comparable functionality and many features/functionality that the TI calculators do not. So – if you like color, want more flash memory (for pictures, movies) and the ability to modify one variable at a time, then the Prizm is your choice. If color is not important, but you like the natural display, then go with the fx-9860GII. If your school requires exam mode capabilities for standardized testing, then the Prizm or the fx-9860GII would be your choice. But – the fx-9750GII, for its lower cost, is going to meet most of your functionality needs, so if the extra features aren’t necessary for you, go with that calculator. You won’t go wrong with any of them.

Here’s a quick video showing some of the differences:

Here at Casio we have had enough. Enough excuses. Enough misinformation. Enough hearing “we use TI calculators in our school” or “I don’t know how to use a Casio calculator” or “my students are coming to class with Casio calculators and I don’t know how to help them”. So, this year at NCTM in San Francisco, we decided to challenge TI calculator users to a face-off with Casio in order to show, face-to-face, head-on, that Casio calculators are MORE intuitive, easier-to-use, more efficient and beautiful, and let’s face it – MORE AFFORDABLE! And if the crowds at the booth weren’t evidence enough of the fun everyone was having, and if the gasps from the audience (filled largely with TI-calculator users and some TI-exhibitors too) didn’t make it clear that Casio has a superior calculator, then perhaps some pictures and videos are needed!

We had 10 Face-Off challenges throughout the entire NCTM conference – with an average of about 3 games per challenge, so that’s about 30 games where Casio Prizm faced-off against the TI-84+ CE. And – Casio won EVERY SINGLE TIME – hands down, no contest. There were 12 activities to choose from, and the TI-volunteer contestant was allowed to spin and choose the activity for each game (and some of them got creative, let me tell you!) You naysayers reading this might claim the games were rigged – that we picked activities where TI had no chance. However – we picked 12 common mathematical activities that most high-school algebra/algebra II students would be expected to do with any calculator:

Find the intersection (s) of two graphed functions (a linear & quadratic)

Find the root (s) of a graphed quadratic function (on the graph)

Find the min/max of a given function (on the graph)

Graph y= and r= functions ON THE SAME GRAPH

Graph a vertical line (not draw – GRAPH so we can find coordinate points)

Find the area of intersection between two graphed functions (show on graph)

Find the intersection (s) of two graph functions (cubic and trigonometric)

Find the root (s) of a cubic on the graph of the function

Make a Box Plot and Find the 1-variable statistics from a given set of data

Graph two inequalities and show their intersection on the graph

Given a function (quadratic), find x-value for a given y-value, and find y-value for a given x-value

Casio just does these better – faster, more efficient and you don’t have to hunt around for which menu to use or ask, “do I use the “test” or the “math” button to go to the next step?”, and you don’t waste time tracing and guessing. A more efficient, faster processing calculator does not mean the contest is rigged – it just means the calculator is better. It’s the calculator – not the problems!

Yes, yes – you TI users out there, there are probably mathematical calculations that a TI might be able to do quicker or the same as a Casio. But, what was very apparent, in every single challenge with every single TI-contestant (s) (many times they had to work with a partner), was that even experienced users of the TI cannot always remember what buttons to push, where the menus/operations are that they need, what the steps are, what to turn on or off. It was a process….sometimes a long process….and it was obvious, even with half the people in the audience helping, that using a TI graphing calculator is confusing, with a lot of steps that are often hidden. As everyone could see (and as our Casio teacher contestants, Jennifer N. Morris,Tom Beatini, and Mike Reiners, explained while we waited for the TI folks to finish), the Casio graphing calculators have the menus/tests/processes you need right on the screen, easily accessible, making getting to the next step more efficient, intuitive, and not a mystery or scavenger hunt. And – the graphs on the Casio display faster and the points/intersection or calculations you need stay on the screen – you don’t have to redo anything or write it down before moving on to the next.

The point of the game was obviously to show the Casio/TI difference. Our bigger goal was to open the minds of TI-users, who often use a TI because “it’s what our school/district buys” or “it’s all I know”. I think we succeeded in our goal – we had many converts to Casio during our NCTM Face-off Challenge – hard not to be a TI-to-Casio convert when the difference is right there in front of you. In fact, two of our TI-contestants took off their TI t-shirts and replaced them with Casio Prizm t-shirts during the game (we only caught the second on film unfortunately) to show their new-found appreciation for the Casio. They “saw the light through Prizm” as the shirt says. For those of you that weren’t there, all we ask is that you stop settling for the status-quo and what you’ve always done and make a change.

Take me – in my 25 years of teaching, I used a TI for 20 of those years. I would never go back to a TI now that I have used a Casio calculator. Even after 20 years teaching with a TI, I still can’t remember where to find things – and what steps to follow. When I tried to learn the TI-Navigator – I was so frustrated and irritated that I stopped trying and just used the 84-face plate. With Casio – it took just a short time to get use to the interface, as it is different from TI – but after that initial familiarization with the menu and buttons, I don’t forget how to do anything because it’s all there in front of me, on the screen, no matter which menu I am in. Truth be told, all our Casio teacher-trainers are former TI users – and none of them would go back. Casio is just that much better.

Alright – I’m listening. I am hearing some negativity.

I hear some of you saying that calculators are going away, and we will all be using web products and apps. And – while schools are slowly becoming more 1:1 and mobile apps and web-based calculators might be showing up more in classrooms, the fact is that 67% of students DO NOT have regular access to mobile technology on a regular basis. But calculators are in the hands of 83% of today’s students. With funding in education continually diminishing, and access and equity to technology a major issue, for the foreseeable future, calculators are an inexpensive way to get technology into the hands of ALL students. Students are buying calculators, and more and more are buying Casio’s because they are more affordable (you can get a Casio graphing calculator for about half the cost of a TI-graphing calculator), and easier for them to learn. Calculators are here for a long while still, so let’s get some hand-held technology into the hands of students now so they can explore mathematics instead of waiting for the one day a week, or month, they might get to use that lap-top/tablet cart or go to the computer lab.

Check out some of our videos showing the Casio vs. TI difference. There will be more to come. Explore some of our free online resources that will support you and your students learning of the Casio calculators, especially those of you who have so many students bringing in their Casio’s to class. Why not take a free, self-paced online Prizm course and get a free Casio Prizm Emulator to use in your classroom? Casio is definitely the more affordable way to go with better functionality. Be a convert!

In my explorations of hand-held calculators and how they can support mathematics learning, I want to continually share when I learn new things. Why calculators? Well, the obvious answer is because I am working with Casio. But the real answer is, if you actually go around the country and go into math classrooms, calculators are still the most-used and available technology to students. I know, I know -we hear about iPads, tablets, laptops, etc. in use in classrooms, but the reality is these are NOT readily available to most students. I think I did a post already about this (Calculators, A thing of the past?), but from my own personal experiences, teaching and working with teachers (some of these in the last couple of months), most math classrooms are still working with the following technology: one computer with projector/screen (sometimes a whiteboard, most often NOT), and then hand-held calculators. And, unfortunately, not even enough of those for each student.

So – yes, despite the ‘edtech revolution’ we hear about in the news, in the real, every-day classroom, students are most often using calculators, and this will be the case for quite a while unless there is some funding-miracle, which, as we know, is very unlikely. It’s a sad reality – as an edtech supporter, I would love more than anything all students to have access to technology on a regular basis that allows them to quickly research, explore, practice and visualize mathematics, whether that be via tablets or computers or calculators. But as most of us who work in/with schools know, that is NOT what’s actually happening in most math classrooms. That said, let’s focus on the great technology that is accessible to a majority of students – and if not, should be, since it’s affordable, portable and can do much of the visualization and exploration that students should be doing in mathematics – graphing calculators.

Now another reality is that TI seems to be the go-to calculator found more often in schools, a lot of this due to brainwashing and really good marketing and the old “change is hard” mentality in education. I myself was a TI graphing calculator user the whole time I was teaching in public schools because that’s what we had. What I am now finding more and more, as I learn the Casio and compare it to the TI, is that I can remember what to do on the Casio way more so than I can on the TI. That’s just one thing, though admittedly a pretty major thing. And – while many of the steps for using the TI and Casio are often similar, the Casio is often quicker and more efficient than the TI, and can usually provide a visualization on one screen that helps make a connection which might otherwise be impossible to see when having to look at separate graphs (i.e. graphing y= and r= on one graph).

My goal here is to point out places where Casio has an advantage over TI (and I am comparing the Casio Prizm and TI-84 CE, which are the graphing calculators most similar and also both are accepted on standardized tests). Obviously, my opinion is probably considered biased – though I am speaking as someone with over 26 years experience, one who has used many different technologies and only ever taught with the TI (Navigator included). I honestly find the Casio more fun and easier. More intuitive. I just can’t remember where things are with the TI – it’s frustrating! As they say with many things – once you go Casio, you’ll never go back! But – I don’t think I would feel this way if I wasn’t constantly comparing the two side by side, something most teachers never get the chance to do. With that said, here is another side-to-side comparison of the Casio Prizm and the TI-84 CE showing how to graph a piecewise function, something I believe Algebra II teachers are probably getting into about now, that helps illustrate my preference for the Casio over the TI.

I admit to being a TI-83/84 user for all of my teaching. Not because I had a personal preference for a TI, but because it was what all the schools where I taught in Virginia provided and recommended. It was in our books, it was what our state tests recommended, it’s what we were told to tell students to buy. Why? Was TI better than a Casio or an HP or any other brand for that matter? No. It wasn’t…and isn’t to this day. But – TI knew how to play the market and basically embedded themselves with publishers, testing companies, schools, to the point where today, schools & teachers & publishers are convinced TI is the better calculator option. Or maybe I should say they think it is the only option.

It’s not. It’s an option. But it’s not the better option in terms of cost and in terms of ease-of-use. In my 25 years of using TI, I can honestly say I still forget how to do most operations because there are so many steps involved or I can’t remember where the menu item lives. Obviously, as the Casio Brand Ambassador, I have a definite bias in my current opinion about hand-held calculators. However, it wasn’t my opinion until about 7 years ago, when Casio approached me, in my role as Director of PD/Education Outreach at Key Curriculum, to get some advice and suggestions for quality trainers who could help support Casio PD efforts. That’s when, for the first time, I actually used a Casio calculator and realized it was really easy and quick to learn – and I could remember things!! All the Casio PD teachers, many who were also Key trainers and who teach in classrooms all over the country to this day, were former TI users as well. But, once they tried Casio, never looked back and encourage others to make the switch as well. In my new role, I’ve been asking these teachers why, and the first answer I always get is “it’s so much easier for the kids to use and they remember how to use it”. The second answer I always get is “they are much better calculators in what they can do”.

In European countries, Casio has a much bigger share of the market than TI – they know about quality and ease of use. Here in the U.S. we are fighting the TI machine…it’s so embedded in our math culture and it’s hard to change, as are most things in education (think Common Core!) As Terry Walsh said in his NCTM session in Atlantic City, something a college professor told him, “Casio calculators are much more user friendly, but TI calculators are more user familiar”. Sticking with the familiar and avoiding change is a disservice to our students, who deserve technology tools that are affordable and intuitive to use.

I thought it would be a fun idea, since Casio is always saying how much easier it is to use a Casio vs. a TI calculator, to actually show how. I picked two comparable graphing calculators: The Casio fx-9860GII SD ($79.99) and the TI-84 Plus ($139.00) to do a side-by-side comparison of a relatively common algebraic skill – finding the intersection of two functions. (Note: This is NOT a lesson on teaching this algebraic concept, so please, please, do not think this is how I would help students understand how to find the intersections or what those intersections represent in real-world context. There is a whole lot of discovery, hands-on learning, conversations, etc. that would occur if this were an actual lesson). What this video demonstrates is a step-by-step “how do you find the intersection of two functions using each graphing calculator” – nothing more, nothing less. The point being to actually demonstrate, talk-the-talk, walk-the-walk, and show ONE example of how a Casio graphing calculator is easier to use than a TI graphing calculator.

Watch the video: Step-by-Step Casio vs. TI Graphing Calculator