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Taking a chance with a Graphics Calculator

Kissane, B. (2019) Taking a chance with a Graphics Calculator. At Right Angles (3). pp. 72-81.

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Graphics calculators have been available to students in secondary school in some countries now for more than thirty years, although of course their capabilities have been developed in various ways to support the school curriculum over that time. The most frequent use of these devices seems to be concerned with the representation of functions, including in particular their graphical representation, which was an important component of a previous paper in this magazine (Kissane, 2016). However, the success of graphics calculators is due in no small part to their use for a much wider range of mathematical capabilities. In this article, the focus is on their potential to help students to learn about chance phenomena, which are generally addressed in schools through the study of probability.

The history of probability in secondary schools is relatively short and generally unfortunate. Unlike many other parts of the secondary school curriculum, such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus, probability has been studied in schools only recently, and was relatively rare in most countries as little as fifty years ago. One part of the reason for this is likely to be that probability is a relatively recent inclusion in mathematics itself, dating from around the sixteenth century (Hacking, 1975). Until quite recently, much of the probability work in schools has been excessively formal, with a focus on the algebra of probabilities, but with less attention paid to the nature of everyday random phenomena. Yet in recent times, probabilities have become more evident and explicit in our daily world, a good example of which is weather forecasting, now regularly accessed by many people on their smartphones.

Item Type: Non-refereed Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Publisher: Azim Premji University
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