This will be my fourth year teaching, and each year begins the same way with high expectations and millions of ideas in my head. One of the goals I've had every year is to explicitly teach students how to use the graphing calculator, but I've never done a good job with it. After teaching a high performing junior level precalculus students last year and realizing as the year went on just how little they knew about their calculators made me want to do something about it. And I'm talking simple stuff, like recalling the last entry or fixing a mistake inserting a digit in a line they are typing instead of just clearing the entire line. I don't know who or how my teachers taught me how to use my graphing calculator in school. I think I just knew I couldn't break the calculator by trying different things. I once wrote a program to use the quadratic formula by asking A=?, B=?, and C=?. I was all vainglorious about it, and I did it all by myself playing around with the simple programming logic. I guess I was bored one time in class, or a better explanation might be that I'm a Super-nerd! Anyway, my students need better graphing calculator skills. I've known this for awhile. I have always thought that having separate calculator skills assessments would be the way to go. I wanted to make sure and watch each student proficiently use their calculators. However, I never fully implemented it into my classroom. It was always an after thought, or in the case of my juniors last year a crash course right before they took the ACT. Obviously, this is not OK! So this year I'm making a point of starting to teach graphing calculator skills in my Algebra 1 classes. I've even made the first unit's assessment!
Not very Hemmingway-esque, but it gets the job done. For the first unit, we wanted to hit the skills needed to proficiently use the HOME screen. Later on in the year we will teach how to use the calculator to graph and stat plot when we get to that unit.
Starting with freshmen in Algebra 1 makes the most sense because it will take them all of their high school careers to get familiar with their calculator. We do not want to keep doing the crash course right before the ACT every year. I also think it may encourage students to buy their own graphing calculators. I'd say in the past it's been about 50% who have had their own graphing calculator, which is very good being that we have a majority of students coming from low-income families. But let's be real, if a student has the latest cell phone that lasts them less than a year, or even the $315 Lebron's (I'd eat okra for the rest of my life before paying that much for a pair of shoes.) they can buy an $80 graphing calculator.
So, hopefully this year is different. I'm not quite sure how I want to grade this. I do SBG on my quizzes, but should this be worth more like a test? Do you make a point of teaching graphing calculator skills? Do you see a need in your class? Have a comment/critique/suggestion/addition about the assessment? Hit me up in the comments! Thanks!