Tomorrow I am off to Prague (lucky me!) to attend the first European training session for the new HP Prime. This was shown at the NCTM conference in Colarado and caused great excitement. This will be a massive opportunity for maths departments. If you are thinking of getting tablets for your students then just wait. This device is amazing. I’m going to wait until I come back to tell you everything, but suffice it to say, the teacher at the board will be in wireless contact with every student’s machine. Try doing that with iPads or Android. And they are running some really superb new software, but building on everything you know from the HP39gII. OK, enough, full report next week.

# Category Archives: Graphing Calculators

# HP 39gII UnFreeze

When Windows 7 or even OSX freezes, you know what to do (well, fans of the IT crowd will just turn it off and on again).

Well, all graphing calculators are computers running software and well, it crashes very occasionally and sometimes freezes the machine. Don’t be alarmed, this is the simple procedure to get your HP39gII going again if it freezes on the logo screen at startup:

HP39gII UnFreeze Procedure

1. Remove batteries

2. Replace batteries with new (or just replace if you are convinced batteries are good)

3. Hold down the Backspace key

4. While holding the Backspace key down, press the ON key

5. Keep holding the Backspace key down until you get past the HP splash screen

# BETT 2013: Graphing Calculators

I am booked for a session at the BETT show 2013. So, please come along, say hello and discuss the issues. It’s in the HP stand theatre area at 11:00a.m. on the Saturday, so everyone can be there with no cover needed.

I’ve called it “Dialogic teaching with handheld technology: introducing the HP39gII graphing calculator” to sound flash, but in the end the question must be: ‘How do we get kids talking about their maths?’. Dynamic maths software provides a tool to explore and getting it into the hands of the students lets them talk about it.

I’ve heard that school are getting iPads and Android tablets in class sets. People talk about them as if just having the device will teach students stuff. The question is ‘By what mechanism’. What will produce the change? Clearly you can go to get one person’s didactic explanation of a minute method as per Khan Academy or get free drill and practice in game format like Manga High (or even pay for it with the ubiquitous My Maths). But please teachers, don’t forget that the moment you start to believe this, then you aren’t needed any more! What we need are tools that mediate mathematical exploration. That needs open software that simply gives mathematical responses to mathematical inputs. Look at the current open maths software on iOS or Android and you quickly see how poorly developed they are for educational use. The best software by far is Math Studio (used to be Space Time). This is seriously powerful software (and for an APP prices are now getting a bit more serious at £15), but users will know it is not credible as a school package.

So, how do you get well optimised educational maths software into the hands of students, in an ordinary classroom, with no booking and a very high degree of probability that it will work. Well, you know I’m going to tell you that at present the only solution is graphing calculators. And, heh, as a bonus, they don’t connect to the internet, so no-one will be facebooking when they should be thinking maths (and that’s not a reflection on the activity … adults do this in conference sessions too!), it’s just too strong a temptation.

I’ll make the case in the session by showing off some of my activities, that I hope you will agree, make you think in a qualitatively different way about things like variation and the interrelationships between different presentations of functions.

See you there!

# Add Programs to Your HP39gII

There is now a big library of teacher created add on programmes for you HP39gII. They have been created through a French web site called CALC-BANK. Click here to find their HP39gII page. As far as I can tell they are all written for the HP39gII, so browse through the sections. Clearly language is an issue with many of them, but the Pascal’s Triangle and the Periodic Table are good useable examples.

What you do is to download and unzip the file and then drag it into the folder containing the your HP39gII emulator’s files. You should find it at:

C:\Users\YourComputerName\AppData\Roaming\HP39gII

Next time you launch the emulator you will find the new program. Run it by pressing Shift then 1 (for Pgrm), choose the programme you want to run and then F6 to run.

This is the Pascal’s Triangle program at the end of it’s run for line 8 …

# Key Details on the HP39gII

One of the really clever features of the HP39gII is that you can easily update the operating system. To do this you download the updater software, connect your calculator to your computer and in about 20 seconds, it’s done. Go to the hpgraphingcalc site and download the updater zip folder. make sure to keep it all together in the folder and look at the read me file. Follow the instructions and you’re done. Here. There will be regular updates. The latest is version 1.3 which contains the StreamSmart data streaming app. We are hoping for a computer algebra systems and dynamic geometry and various other new content, so it will be well worth making this a habit.

The HP39gII can be used in all exams where a calculator is allowed at GCSE and A Level. However, exam secretaries are sometimes worried that students will have put there own content on the machine and need a quick check that the calculator is exam ready. To do this you need to reset the machine:

- Turn the calcualtor off.
- Hold down F1 and F6
- Turn the calculator on still holding F1 and F6.
- Release everything when you see the HP logo.
- You then get a clear visual confirmation that everything has been cleared.

The emulator has very clever features for configuring your best screen composition. On the ‘skins’ menu there are four choices for showing the calculator looking like a calculator. My favourite for a 4:3 projector is ‘Large’. However if you press the maximise button (the middle one of the group of three in the top right hand corner of the window), you get the calculator screen maximised with the buttons placed to the right. this is set up differently for each of the skins. My favourite here for showing the calculator screen as big as possible is the ‘medium’ skin maximised. Download the latest emulator regularly to make sure you are up-to-date, again, it’s here.

Please share activities you’ve done with the HP39gII, so we can build a community of users. Send them to: chris@themathszone.co.uk

# Graphing Calculator Workshops

I’ve had a really nice time doing a round of workshops for teachers and for PGCE and GTP students on handheld technology. I’ve always thought that ICT provides opportunities for teachers to invent interesting activities that give students deep insights into how maths works. It is interesting that today, pupil’s in primary schools are no longer to be allowed to be examined in their ability to solve problems with numbers harder than those they could handle by written or mental methods. Calculators are banned. Bizarely, the minister responsible justified this move in terms of the need to be able to handle numbers because maths “influences all spheres of our daily lives”. This maths is routinely done by engineers and scientists who would never stoop to using a calculator or indeed a computer to support their number work. The failure to get the sums right in the recent Virgin trains debacle was presumably caused by over use of calculators, except that the culprits will have been educated in an era when they did have get enough number work. An era that clearly never was.

I start with the neat teacherly trick of playing ‘guess the function‘ here the participants see a calculators giving values of f(x) for their values of x, letting them choose to get a feeling for the variation. I only show them a graph, when they have already formed a reasonable view, then watching as they focus on the details. The first thing is to realise that experienced teachers and well qualified trainees struggle to see a quadratic just form a small table of values. No doubt because the drill and practice pedagogy the present government is so enamored with means many will have only ever encountered a quadratic already knowing that was what the five points they were given to plot would show. But it is good to get a feeling for things and they see this. So, playing the game on the handheld with their partners strengthens the insights and makes them more flexible.

It turns out that lots of schools are buying sets of iPads, demonstration that there is plenty of money around. But the maths software available for iPads isn’t a patch on any graphing calculator and the storage, security and battery issues for anything you have to recharge means they will be no more reliable than laptops. In one group of 25 trainee teachers after about 4 weeks in schools only one had seen any handheld machines possible to use in ordinary classrooms. That was a school where every student carried a laptop with them at all times. It only came out later that in all this time they had not been used even one single time in maths lessons. A set of 15 HP39gIIs stored in a bag in the maths office with a few spare batteries and you just pick them up on your way in to class. I make the case that it is the teacher who prevents the use of technology. That is a bit harsh. Mostly it’s the technology. So use something which is no more expensive than a couple of textbooks and is almost certain to work.

Then we get back to seeing the resources we have as sites to conjour up really clever ways in to mathematical ideas. That’s what makes our job fun. Look at bag of dice, counters, centicubes and we should always be saying, OK what could I do with those that encapsulates a mathematical idea. A graphing calculator is just the same, it’s something we can use to give students deeper insights. It is in fact a calculator, and the scientists and engineers of the future should certainly learn to use it to support their number work, their algebra, whatever, so they can focus their brain power on being brilliant with the science and the engineering. But also it’s a pedagogic device. A clever piece of kit for clever teachers to do what is most creative about our jobs. Something that supports kids doing clever thinking.