GA’s Math Department is ‘Nspire-ing
Posted October 2, 2012
Not too long before the decision to rebuild GA’s Middle and Upper School occurred, the faculty of the Upper School mathematics department discussed the “next big thing” in teaching – the TI-Nspire CAS CX. A handheld (not a calculator, thank you) that could do everything their old TI-84 could do, and enhanced with capabilities not fathomable before now. With the new technology to be introduced inside the brand new McNeil Upper School, could the math department take on learning SMART programming AND use a new personal calculating system?
Department Chair Ruth Carver, who sits on the board for several local, regional, national and international math organizations was invited, as a recent appointee to the Texas Instruments International Educational Advisory Committee to attend pre-conference training for TI instructors prior to attending the International Conference held in San Antonio in February, 2011. At this conference she received first-hand training on the TI-Nspire that she then brought back to GA. Not only could the Nspire perform symbolic manipulations of algebra and calculus equations, but it also had built-in spreadsheets, dynamic geometry software, stat software, it performed in color, AND, the pièce de résistance, with the addition of the wireless “Navigator System,” the teacher could view each student’s Nspire to see how they were solving a problem. In addition, the system is able to turn over control of the handheld being projected on the SMART board to an individual student, making his or her system the one being projected.
“I am really proud of the teachers who moved out of their comfort zone to invest in this new educational technology,” said Mrs. Carver. “We are now using the ‘next best thing’ and it shows with the classroom work we are doing. The Navigator system allows me to not only send data and interactive investigations to each student’s handheld, it also allows me to review in real time what is happening on each student’s handheld and adjust the lesson accordingly. I can also use a quick poll to assess their understanding of the new material. After students input their answers on their handheld, the system creates a bar graph of the data which enables me to see where I need to provide additional explanations. It provides immediate formative assessment on every student on a daily basis.”
Even though GA faculty had little time to work with the new technology, they gladly opened the doors to their new teaching spaces to colleagues from schools across the area for several conferences during the past year. GA hosted the ATMOPAV (Association of Teachers of Mathematics of Philadelphia and Vicinity) Conference last fall where national speakers on technology were enthused about OUR new surroundings. Teachers from other communities used the new GA classrooms in their workshops and wanted to know when they could bring their colleagues back for a tour.
“All year long, people have been coming over to sit in our classrooms and take in the new technology and space,” said Upper School math teacher and Washington House Head Jason Straub. “They want to learn how we integrate the Nspire into our daily teachings now with the SMART technology, and we are more than happy to help!"