Frederick Belton wrote:

> I am seeking comments from any of you who have experience with using
> graphing calculators in developmental math classes.

Here at the university at the opposite end of the state, we don't use graphing
calculators in our developmental math classes, but maybe not for the reason you

While it's true that many of our students coming out of high school
already have graphing calculators, they are different brands and models.
Depending on their major, after they finish our classes, they take either
probability and statistics (most education, business, arts, and social sciences
majors) or the precalculus/calculus sequence.  The math department requires one
inexpensive scientific calculator (which unfortunately has been discontinued)
for the stats class and a different graphing calculator (TI-83 or 86, it seems
like, although last year it was an HP) for calculus.

We didn't feel it was fair to require all our students to spend $75-100 or
more on a calculator if most of them weren't going to use it after the course,
especially since our new textbooks retail for about $72.  That's just asking
too much for our students to pay for one course, particularly for those who
are supporting themselves and maybe even a spouse and small children.  (We
also use the same book for elementary and intermediate algebra to try to save
students a bit more money.)

Now to the questions, even though we don't require graphing calculators.

> 1. How much class time must be set aside to teach keystrokes?

I'll speak to this from my experience teaching finding roots and powers on
scientific or graphing calculators.   If you are going to use them heavily,
you'll probably need to require the same or nearly the same (e.g. TI-82 or 83;
85 or 86) calculator from everyone, but I'm sure some would balk if they
already possessed a different one.  If you let them use what they have, you'll
need to make sure you're familiar with most of the models out there, or can
figure it out on the fly (which is actually pretty exciting, if you ask me).

One of our developmental math faculty members does a "brown bag lunch seminar"
each semester through the adult (nontraditional) programs office to teach any
student interested how to use a scientific calculator.  They're usually fairly
well attended.

> 2. Do you require that each student buy a calculator, or do you just use one
> in class for demonstrations?

For intermediate algebra I do require use of some kind of scientific or
graphing calculator, but allow them to use whatever they have or suggest they
buy the calculator used in stats (Sharp EL-546L, about $16) or get an
inexpensive one at a discount store.  One of these days I'd like to order an
overhead calculator.  Right now, though, with Tennessee higher education facing
budget cuts due to an antiquated tax system, I don't foresee spending any money
on that or, say, a class set of graphing calculators.

If the math department required the same calculator for both core math classes,
we would probably have students buy them.

> 3. Has use of calculators increased pass rates, retention rates or anything
>else?  Any negative effects?

I have no information available.

> 4. What degree of interest have your students shown in graphing calculators?

No more than anything else in math class.  BTW, several are interested in
having resources available on the Web, and before we changed books, I posted
copies of old tests on the Web for them to use as additional study guides.

Hope this is vaguely related to your question.  Perhaps this discussion should
cross over to the NADE math SPIN list--it's been silent for several days.

Daryl Stephens  <[log in to unmask]>
Assistant Professor (math)
Division of Developmental Studies
East Tennessee State University
Box 70620, Johnson City, TN 37614
Office phone (423) 439-4676   Fax:  (423) 439-7446