[Edu-sig] thought re graphing calculators ...

Brian Blais bblais at bryant.edu
Mon Sep 28 19:18:45 CEST 2009

On Sep 27, 2009, at 19:38 , Charles Cossé wrote:

> Hi, this has probably been discussed to death already, but maybe  
> not: The point at which fancy graphing calculators become  
> "necessary" (ie as in one's student career) is the point at which  
> the calculator should be abandoned and Python employed.  Just a  
> thought ... delete at will !

Just a month ago, a friend of mine who homeschools her children was  
asking me about graphing calculators.  Apparently the math curriculum  
she uses has a number of graphic calculator exercises.  My advice was  
to buy a nice solar-powered scientific calculator (for $15 at  
Target), but to ignore the graphing calculator entirely.  Her kids  
should do the exercises by hand, on graph paper instead.  Anything  
that is hard enough for you to use a graphic calculator can be done  
much more easily with a computer.

After giving her this advice (which I still stand by), I was thinking  
about my own experience.  I was going through high school when the  
first graphic calculators came out, and I had one Junior and Senior  
year and through college.  I loved to program it, and I loved the big  
screen where I could see and edit expressions.  However, as I think  
about it, I can not think of a single problem where I *needed* the  
graphic calculator, or where it gave me more insight than I could do  
by hand.  It was a fun toy, but not the best tool.


Brian Blais
bblais at bryant.edu

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