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The graphics calculator as an investigative tool

Kissane, B. (1999) The graphics calculator as an investigative tool. In: Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, Virtual Conference 1999, 20 Aug - 24 Sept 1999, Web-based

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The graphics calculator seems to be frequently misunderstood, especially by those who are unaccustomed to using it. (Kissane, 1997a) For example, it is sometimes regarded as a device to assist students to pass examinations, perhaps understandably in places where its use has become widespread because of changes to examination rules. Similarly, it is also interpreted sometimes as a device whose main significance is related to drawing graphs of functions, again not surprisingly in situations where it is described as a 'graphing' calculator. As a further example, it is sometimes dismissed as a form of technology because it is not commonly used by professional people such as industrial mathematicians, statisticians, scientists and engineers, most of whom routinely use desktop or laptop computers for mathematical work.

In contrast to these opinions, I would argue that the significance of the graphics calculator for education is that it offers opportunities for investigation that would not otherwise be available to students. That is, its significance is for learning rather than the assessment of learning. This includes aspects of graphing functions, but many other aspects of mathematics as well. Although less powerful than other sorts of computers, it is of educational importance because it is potentially accessible to all students, rather than to only the privileged few. (Kissane 1995a,1996)

In support of these claims, this paper outlines very briefly three of the ways in which a graphics calculator can be regarded as an investigative device, described as the most important metaphor for the device by Kissane (1995b). For convenience, the Casio cfx-9850GB Plus graphics calculator is used to illustrate the possibilities.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Publisher: Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers
Copyright: 1999 AAMT
Conference Website:
Notes: Appears In: AAMT Virtual Conference 99 proceedings (CD-ROM)
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