The Power of the fx-991EX – It’s Not JUST Solar

I read the Casio Twitter feed and FB feed every day, just to answer questions and see what followers might be saying. Recently there have been some kudos shared about the fx-991EX solar powered scientific calculator that got me curious. In particular. that the fx-991EX does engineering problems so well and they would be lost without it (someone said he uses it in all his higher-ed courses). This was intriguing to me since I assumed engineers, with their complex calculations, would more likely use graphing calculators like the Prizm or ClassPad or even engineering software.  Naturally, I set out to explore some of the ‘engineering’ capabilities of the fx-991EX, since I hadn’t really spent too much time with this aspect of the calculator.

As I refreshed my memory of the menu and capabilities of the fx-991Ex, it kind of boggled my mind how
much this solar-powered scientific calculator can do, and with it’s QR code capabilities, it can even show graphs and printable spreadsheets and tables. (See my previous posts about Graphing & QR code capabilities). After looking a little more closely at all the menu icons and what each does, I understood why this one calculator would in fact be sufficient for engineers, or really anyone. I spent some time playing around with different features that I had not previously explored, and have shared a couple of my explorations in the video below.

For those of you who have not experienced or explored this powerful little calculator, I suggest you do. If you are at NCTM San Antonio this April, stop by the booth and get some hands-on experience, or just explore some of the videos, or download the free 90-day emulator trial and give it a go.  You can access our Quick-Start Guide to get you on your way.

Histograms with ClassWiz & QR Codes

Students should engage and be hands-on with mathematics as much as possible. One of the activities I loved was the Sum of Two Dice, whether in my middle school classes or in my Algebra classes. That’s the great thing about mathematics – you can take an activity/concept and make it more or less rigorous depending on the questions you ask.

I am sure many of you have done this activity – I am choosing it for this post because it’s a nice way to 2015-12-10_11-23-28demonstrate how the Casio ClassWiz (fx-991EX) scientific calculator allows you to create frequency tables and with the QR code, see an online visualization of the data.

First thing – have students roll two dice and collect some data – i.e., the number on each die and then the sum of the two together. If you don’t have die (or don’t want to hear all the noise!) you can utilize the random integer option on the calculator to simulate rolling die. I usually had my students in pairs to do this – one record, one ‘roll’. Then have them tabulate the frequency of each sum and create a new table with possible sums & frequency.

2015-12-10_12-32-42The next step is to have them make a histogram of their own frequency table and then compare to other students.  In my example, students only rolled 24 times each, so everyone’s graph will look different and not be what we expected (more 7’s). Great discussions can come from these observations.

Hopefully, discussions lead to the idea that each group o2015-12-10_12-17-22nly collected a small sample of rolls, and that if we had more samples,
perhaps the distribution of data would be more what we expected – i.e. more sums of 7 appearing. Here’s where having a class emulator is a great tool – you can display one frequency table and collect the class data.  So – same sums, but combine each groups frequency to get a total frequency for the whole class.

Once you collect the class data, you can then create a new histogram. With the 2015-12-10_12-18-07ClassWiz you can easily do so just by creating a QR code of the table data, and, with the emulator, go directly to the visualization. You can also do this with the SmartPhone App Edu+ if you have that option. The nice thing about the emulator is you can immediately pop the visualization up and begin discussions and comparisons of whole class histogram versus individual groups. Being able to immediately see the visualization with only a scientific calculator, is powerful, especially as you can quickly compare between previous “one-group” histogram and current “whole-class”.

There are so many ways to use this activity – I use to use it with TinkerPlots, graphing calculators, students hand-drawing the graphs. The ClassWiz and its ability to create QR codes and online visualizations is another way to help students make meaning out of the math they are doing, especially when they only have a scientific calculator to use, as most middle school students do. Hopefully this gives you some more options.  I have included a short video clip on how to actually create the frequency table, QR code, and online graph using the ClassWiz fx-991EX. Try it!

QR Codes, ClassWiz & Expanding Limited Technology

While in Japan (see my first post) the R&D folks at Casio were showing the new EDU+ app for smartphones that reads the QR codes from the ClassWiz calculator. My first reaction was “cool!”, my second reaction was “why?” since, as I thought at the time was why would you need a QR code to get to an online graphical representation of the data from the calculator when you could just use a graphing calculator?

But – a light bulb did go off as I played with both the calculator and the app and thought about schools I’d been to. I realized the whole purpose of the QR code is for those students and teachers who do not have graphing calculators, for whatever reason – i.e. grade level (they are in elementary and early middle school for example), cost prohibitive, or just not an option. The ClassWiz calculator, a scientific calculator, is new to the U.S. market this August, and is very cheap (about $27), easy to use, and can create & display graphical representations via QR codes, so an added feature that teachers and students can utilize. It’s a nice option for showing graphical representations quickly when other tools are not available.

Let me demonstrate how it works using the ClassWiz Emulator and some real-world data I got from the eeps Data Zoo (a fun place to get some interesting data to use with students). I thought the Roller Coaster Data below was interesting. I am going to do a very simple example, so I created a table to compare the largest drop to the length of the coaster.  I then chose the QR code button, which generated a QR code. Since I was in the emulator, I could just click the QR code and go directly to the visual representation on the internet. But, if I’d had my smartphone and the hand-held calculator, I could have used the app to scan the QR code and create the URL for the visual representation.

Look at the short video clip below to see how the process works:

You might be asking yourself why go to all this work if you are going to have to go on the internet anyway? Why not just use an internet graphing calculator? True enough – you could do this.  However, the reality is, most students in classrooms do not have access to computers and internet (only about 1/3 of schools have regular access to mobile devices such as laptops & tablets, for students)(see previous post). Students at the younger grades usually don’t have access to graphing calculators. The majority of the time, classrooms have the teachers computer with a projector set up, relying on whole-class demonstration. We want students hands-on, collecting their data and entering their data, which means students with the calculators.  And then, yes – have them plot their points and sketch their graphs. But – how great, if the teacher and students can quickly generate a QR code right on their calculator and the teacher can pop up a visual of the data right away and have a meaningful class discussion about the relationships students see, what might be the best type of fit for the data, should the graph go through zero and what’s the meaning of that (just to name a few questions)? Students can change the data, or compare different data, generate new QR codes and compare all these different graphs. The QR code functionality of the ClassWiz is just an example of how to expand the capabilities of the technology you have in your classroom. Another resource that allows students to explore and understand mathematics.