CAS vs. Numeric: TI-Nspire Summer Learning

As many of you know, we are going 1:1 with MacBooks for our 6th-8th grade learners in the fall.  For the last seven years, we have required our 8th graders to purchase a handheld graphing device.  For the 2011-2012 school year, we have decided to use the TI-Nspire CAS software on our learners’ MacBooks.

This decision is slightly controversial in our department.  From the informal polling done by the PLC facilitators, the high school PLC members seems split down the middle about CAS (computer algebra system), while the junior high math/science PLC members seemed to be open to a CAS experiment.  We have decided to try CAS with our junior high learners – a little action research, if you will.

Since our junior high learners will have laptops, we thought we would try TI-Nspire CAS; they can always get to WolframAlpha, so why not try the CAS?  The TI-Nspire CAS will “do” algebra that the TI-Nspire will not.


TI-Nspire CAS


I much prefer the CAS for the results of solve.  The TI-Nspire must use nSolve (numeric solve) and simply returns a number.  Some of my learners do this too!  The TI-Nspire CAS uses solve and returns x=2.  This is what I want from my learners.

But, there is more to the story… We want learners to develop an understanding of variables and units.  Using interactive notes, our learners can explore computational thinking  with variables.  The TI-Nspire CAS returns a much different result than the TI-Nspire.


TI-Nspire CAS



TI-Nspire CAS

The above example may seem silly, but those variables are active.  Our learners can go back up in the notes and change the value of the variables and see the output change immediately.  And, isn’t it great that the variables can be included in the calculations?

One other interesting piece of data:  We have 180 teacher-learners coming on July 19 for 3 days of TI-Nspire learning and work.  These teacher-learners could choose between the TI-Nspire and TI-Nspire CAS.  Here is the breakdown per course offered:

It appears that CAS is of interest to many teacher-learners.  How will we teach, facilitate learning, and assess differently based on the new tools available to all learners?  It will be an experiment in learning by doing.

One thought on “CAS vs. Numeric: TI-Nspire Summer Learning”

  1. So interested in this action research. Hope the experimentation and learning is fruitful. I know it will be. Thanks to all the teacher-learners trying new things and new ways to make learning more active, engaging, and pattern focused.


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