For some time now, I have prepared my quiz questions on my TI-83 Plus ViewScreen calculator, then simply walk in and project them on the front wall, usually on a clear space above the board. This leaves me free to move around, check students’ work and help where needed. Naturally, I have found the Notefolio app to be invaluable for this purpose. I can quickly and easily type my questions on the computer using Microsoft Word® and then send the file directly to my calculator via the link cable. More recently, I can now plug in my TI Keyboard and type directly to my calculator. What could be simpler?
One limitation I have found, however, concerns mathematical notation. With some of my classes, I would like to be able to present their questions using correct mathematical forms and, until recently, this has been very limited on the 83-series calculators. At least, that was the case until I discovered the wonderful free apps from Detached Solutions Software (http://www.detachedsolutions.com). These amazing people have been busily writing a growing list of high quality apps for a range of subjects for the 83 Plus and 83 Plus Silver Edition calculators, including two very nice mathematical apps which work seamlessly together called PrettyPrint and Symbolic. These are must-have apps for any teacher of high school mathematics.
PrettyPrint, as the name implies, is a very simple but effective mathematics text editor: enter your mathematical expression into the entry field or pick it up directly from the ans variable (the answer to the last calculation on the home screen) and it is automatically transformed before your eyes into correct mathematical formatting. Symbolic, once installed, adds an extra menu “behind” the MATH menu, activated by pressing the MATH button twice. Once installed, three new submenus are made available: Trig (which adds 12 reciprocal and inverse trig functions), Calc (which adds symbolic derivative and arclength functions) and Algbr (offering, among other things, a symbolic Simplify command and a Pretty command, which links in with the PrettyPrint app).
Both these apps work with “string” variables, which means that it wants them between inverted commas. One option is to store the expression directly to one of the built-in string variables found under the VARS menu (option 7: String). Consider the example shown, where an expression is stored as Str1, presented in correct format to students, then input directly into the derivative function, and the result then displayed in pretty print format. This is powerful mathematics which can be immediately appreciated by students. There is no question that providing full 2-dimensional formatting of algebraic expressions makes it easier for our students to recognise and digest the mathematics they are learning.
The real beauty of this partnership, however, occurs I believe when they are linked using simple BASIC programming. I have linked my five quiz questions into a simple program in which the work can go on “behind the scenes” and students simply see the correct output for each question as I call it up. The ingredients of the program are not complicated. The result however is quite clear. It takes only a few minutes to edit the program to put in new questions each day. I am ready to roll as soon as I walk in, and the questions are clearly and correctly displayed for my students to copy down and work out. It makes an enormous difference to be completely organised when I walk into a lesson, and to have my students busy working from the word go. I have been using short quizzes now for some twenty-five years, and I have never found a better nor more efficientsystem.
Other apps from Detached Solutions include a free Calendar, a 3-D grapher (Graph3), an amazing Dictionary and Word Games app (called DAWG) and Omnicalc, which adds so many features to your 83Plus you will wonder how you survived without it! These and other apps will be previewed and featured in future brief articles like this one. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of my quiz program and visit http://www.detachedsolutions.com to download the FREE apps available there.
For comments & suggestions, please e-mail Steve Arnold.
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