free graphing technology-1

Sunday 28 September 2014

The decision by teacher and student on which graphing technology to use is a very important one. In some schools a teacher will have full control of the graphing technology used both by themselves in the classroom and which graphing calculator students will have use. More often the teacher cannot dictate to students which graphing calculator to use but may attempt to influence the choice made by students. Certainly the teacher must inform students that certain calculators are not allowed on the IB exams. This information is updated each year in the IB document entitled Use of calculators in examinations 2014 (for example) that is available on the OCC (or from your IB coordinator).

For the purpose of making lessons go smoothly and to reduce confusion amongst students, it is best if all students in a class are using the same graphing calculator - or, at least, very similar models (e.g. TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus).

It is also very beneficial for students if the graphing calculator model they have (or at least most of them have) is used by the teacher during classroom demonstrations and activities. However, there are also some good free graphing technology options that are very effective as teaching and learning tools that should be given serious consideration for use by teachers and students - even though they are not allowed to be used by students on the exams.

Essential examination tool - a graphing calculator

A student must have their own graphing calculator (or at least a long-term loan of one from the school) - and it will be either a model made by Texas Instruments(TI) or one made by Casio.  (Again, not all graphing calculators made by either company are permitted on the IB exams; consult the IB document referred to above).

If it's a TI calculator it will be a TI-83 Plus, TI-84 Plus (including Silver Edition and Color Silver Edition), or TI-Nspire (current CX or earlier model - but not a CAS version).

If it's a Casio calculator it will most likely be a version of the fx-9750 or fx-9860, or the newer Prizm fx-CG10. There are other "recommended" Casio models but one of these would be most suitable for Maths SL or HL.

High-quality free graphing technology options

It is impossible to give a complete review of all free graphing technology available on the internet, but from my experience and discussion with other teachers, there are three graphing technology tools that are free (for non-commercial use) and that I would consider to be high-quality. I stress that this is my own opinion and I accept that other teachers may have different views on this. Nevertheless, these three are definitely worth taking a look at.  Two of them, Geogebra and Graph, have been around for several years and many teachers will have heard of them - and the third, desmos, started in 2012.

Why invest time in learning how to use any of these three graphing technology tools when students cannot use them on the IB exams?  Good question - and you may decide to use only the predominant calculator that your students have in your classroom for teaching purposes (especially if you have emulator software for the calculator that allows you to project a working version of it).  There is nothing wrong with that decision but I would advise not making that decision until you have taken a good look at all three of these. Since they are free there is no purchase required by either your school or your students - in, other words, access to the technology is mostly not an issue.

Below are screen images for Geogebra, Graph and desmos with active links that will take you to their respective websites.  Have a look - and come back and see future blog posts discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each.






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