Tag Archives: HP39gII

Update for HP Prime

Calling all HP Prime owners. Make sure your ROM is up-to-date. The latest update was released early in December. A quick check is to see if you have the full calender function which is new in this release. (Tap in the top write corner to show the setting, then tap on the date. A full calender will come up if you have the new version, if not, go update!). The procedure is unbelievably simple.

You need the connectivity kit installed on a PC and your HP Prime ready to connect with a USB cable. (The connectivity kit software is on the CD or available to download on my web site. Click here). Run the software. It will probably prompt you to update it when launched. Do this and follow the prompts to complete the installation. When complete, launch the software again and plug the calculator in with your USB cable. You will see the your calculator listed. Right click on the name HP Prime and choose update firmware. Follow the prompts. That’s it. Your Prime should be ready. Double check by marveling in the new Calender facility. Check here for a video showing the checks.

The HP community is in full swing now, check out these videos for HP Prime games by the wonderful MicNic Tetris and ‘Angry Birds‘ and MasterMind from Tony Galton.

What is this maths that we are teaching?

It is with envy that some mathematics educators in England look to our colleagues in the Netherlands where the Freudenthal institute has generated a rich, coherent research debate which has been widely implemented in schools. Realistic Mathematics Education offered the antidote to the formalism of the New Maths based on Hans Freudethal’s view that mathematics was not pre-formed. He said; “… the global structure of mathematics to be taught should be understood: it is not a rigid skeleton, but it rises and perishes with the mathematics that develops in the learning process. Is it not the same with the adult mathematician’s mathematics?” So it is very sad to hear that the Commission for Examinations in the Netherlands is considering banning graphing calculators from public examinations. What is it that a calculator does that could be damaging to mathematics developing in the learning process? A machine can do only what a machine can do. If mathematicians continue to fulfill an important role, then clearly they must be able to things that machines cannot do. In his 2001 novel, Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture, Doxiadis’ eponymous mathematician dismisses any process a machine could do as ‘shopping maths’. That of course includes anything a computer algebra system (CAS) could do.

So, learners of Freudenthal’s mathematics should have access to the tools to do the shopping maths, to free up the thinking space to engage with real mathematics; solving problems, generating conjectures, developing proof. These are the art of mathematics, not the mechanical grind. Godfrey Hardy acted as the foil to Ramanujan’s genius, but in the ‘apology’ he makes clear how well he understood that Ramajan’s ability for finding extraordinary new relationships that only he could see, was the real mathematical gift. Getting it into a publishable state was the routine work for afterwards.

The excellent Project Euler takes as it’s premise that mathematicians will have access to a high level programming language (Python, which naturally has a powerful CAS) to engage with problems in number theory. The wonderfully named https://brilliant.org/ designed for potential International Maths Olympiad candidates has a whole section of problem solving requiring programming (and hence CAS) available.

Having a machine capable of high level mathematics available in a public examination in mathematics forces examiners to take a considered view of what the maths is that they are examining. It prevents them from asking students to replicate what machines can do and focuses their thinking on the maths that matters. The maths that Hans Freudenthal was so keen to preserve in the Netherlands, against the onslaught of formalism.

This sad situation was brought to my attention through the English translation of a response by Erik Korthof to an advert for the new HP Prime graphing calculator. He suggests that the absence of graphing calculators in the past allowed the construction of ‘proper exams’. The task of mathematics education should not be to make the lives of examiners easy. Clearly, asking a student to complete a mechanical task that would be simply done by a machine is very simple. To construct a question knowing that the student has access to such a machine is hard. Specifically so, because the question must demand genuine mathematical thinking and that puts great demands on examiners. In the UK, the most progressive mathematics education project (MEI) for A Level students (age 18) have just had their first cohort complete an examination module with a CAS calculator available. The result is thoughtful, highly mathematical questions of exactly the type University maths courses are excited to see. The link will take you to their answer to Erik Korthof’s question: “Is secondary education served with a Computer Algebra System?”. Clearly they answer a resounding yes and MEI are major players in the future of maths education in England.

As I’ve said elsewhere the existence of tools like HP Prime which allow access to powerful mathematical visualization and calculation tools in the classroom liberates students from the mechanical processes that prevent them thinking deeply about the mathematics. Certainly there will be many lessons where the calculators are put firmly away and students will learn and practice these mechanical processes, like drawing graphs and manipulating algebra, not only because they need to see how they work, but also to give them a better feel for the outcomes. Happily teachers are sophisticated enough to manage this. They can also find secure ways to use exam modes to ensure devices adhere to local regulations. Schools are expert in this. These logistical issues should not be used as an excuse for not allowing students the tools that professionals have access to and reducing what is called maths in schools to a collection of mechanical processes. Especially not from the birthplace of RME and the beautiful, powerful view of mathematics presented to the world by Hans Freudenthal.

HP Prime The New Future

HP_prime_front_pictureHP Prime will be launched ready for September and the new school year. Have a look at the teaser YouTube HP released to show you what it looks like. Last week I had one in my hands at a launch workshop in Prague led by GT Springer the lead designer. GT has been central to most of the major innovations in graphing calculator design and he has put all of that experience into a genuinely wonderful new device. Read the interview GT gave to the US tech blog Cemetech. First impressions matter to schools who want to show the smart new kit they are buying and to students who want something really flash in an era where new tech does indeed look good. It is interesting that after a stunned response at the NCTM conference in Colorado there has been a lot of buzz around tech sites like Slashgear and Ubergizmo. Well that’s good, because if the tech savvy think it’s worth talking about then bright young teachers and their equally bright students will take a look.

Being an old fogey myself, all I can say is that it looks very smart indeed,with a brushed aluminium front and a smooth bright screen. The colour is bright and very sharp with extremely clear detail and you just have to keep reminding your self that it is a touch screen and that you can drag and move objects and navigate drop down menus. The touch is smooth and very accurate. Younger folk than me will do this instinctively, I’m sure that they will be wondering how it could be done any other way. It is very well made and feels sleek and smooth all round. It is about 300g which feel sufficiently heavy to be solid but easy to hold and it balances really nicely in tho hands with your thumbs over the Home screen and the CAS button. You really feel you are holding a classy piece of kit. So, part one of the battle is won, savvy young people will want one and schools will be proud to show off that they bought them. So, what does it do?

The biggest headline is: wireless connectivity. Files can be transferred via the connectivity software. However, if you plug a small USB dongle (which you purchase seperately) into the top of the PRIME, it will immediately be recognised on the computer, notably the teacher’s computer in class. Files and settings can then be transferred wirelessly. (Only from PRIME to PC not from PRIME to PRIME). More than that, the PRIME screen can be shown on the teacher’s screen. Then their will be class polling functions allowing the teacher to set a question from her computer and students to offer responses from their PRIMES with the results shown in table and chart form. Just like the polling systems many schools are getting which only do this. That will be just the start of what can be done. The critical point is that this a plug-and-play system. No set up, which is a critical factor for classroom use.

The software itself initially looks like an up-rated version of the HP39gII, which it is, so you will find all of the Apps in the HP39gII working exactly the same. So, anyone who has used a HP39gII will get started immediately. However, there are three new Apps which make a big difference. There is a mathematical spreadsheet, a dynamic geometry system and the advanced grapher. Together these represent a major advance in providing an space to explore mathematical ideas. These tie together with the big pause for breath moment. The CAS button.There is no CAS/non-CAS option. A mathematical machine must speak algebra and this one does. There are two home screens; a CAS screen which deals with exact objects and the traditional home screen which deals with approximate objects. The Apps can use the last object from each of these screens and the choice is always there; CAS screen or Home screen. This recognition of the fundamental pure/applied, exact/approximate distinctions is central to an underlying philosophy which has the potential to transform the way we think about exploring mathematics. For me, this is the thing that will determine future research into maths education technology. The spreadsheet, the dynamic geometry and the advanced grapher can all take CAS and non-CAS statements and allow users to explore the results. Just to get a feeling for what this means, have a look at GT’s handouts from the NCTM conference.

Now the sad thing is that exam boards are scared of CAS and we look forward to a future where CAS systems will transform maths exams by getting beyond procedural questions and towards mathematical problem solving. Well done to MEI for getting an A-level module approved allowing CAS and look to Germany and Australia for examples where CAS is embraced. But in the UK CAS is not allowed. Well, no, CAS is not allowed in public maths exams for which any calculator IS allowed. So, it is quite clear that this machine has a CAS system, so could you use it in an exam? To be sure the answer will be yes, the machine includes a comprehensive exam mode. A menu system allows a vast range of features to be turned on or off, CAS is one of the, but suppose a particular exam disallowed solver apps, they can be turned off too. The system is password protected and the user will simply be greeted with a little round exclamation mark if they try to access or disallowed function or suppressed apps will simply be missing from the menu. For school use, the teachers sets the settings they want e.g. turn off the CAS, creates a password and then beams this setting to all of the connected PRIMES, wirelessly. A series of bright LEDS light up in the same sequence while exam mode is engaged. It is immediately clear to the exam secretary that the machine has only those facilities allowed in exams. In discussion with teachers, it became clear that this feature sets up the possibility to allow younger learners to get started with the machine in a simplified mode and actually presented exciting pedagogic possibilities too.

The exams battle is a big one and many schools still think you cannot use any graphing calculator in a maths exam, so we will need to talk with exam boards and the JCQ to make sure the message is clear enough: you can use this machine in a maths exam and without disabling it as an amazing teaching tool.

I’ve always been a fan of calculators as a learning tool. I’ve said elsewhere that tablets are exciting, but you don’t work and think like that, you need different technological tools for different functions and the resilience of the calculator as a form factor is remarkable  I think for this reason. It’s a highly portable, personal thinking space. I am really excited about PRIME because it has all of the maths you could possibly want with an intuitive touch driven interface, wireless connectivity to support proper classroom dialogue in a package that everyone will want to own.

Please get in touch with me if you see the video and want to be part of early development to get really exciting maths back into our classrooms. I would be delighted to talk to you about the support I can offer.

New HP Graphing Calculator

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.

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:


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.