Tag Archives: HP39GS

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.

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

The New HP39GII

I’ve now had a good time to work with the new HP39GII graphing calculator. It is exactly what you would want if you have been using HP39/40GS or a TI84 or a Casio FX9750 and you are ready for a really fast processor, tons of memory, a grey scale hi-resolution screen and batteries that last forever. The HP39/40GS series is a classic graphing calculator with a very smooth operating system built around apps all of which are controlled by the three ‘multiple representations’ keys … symbolic, plot and table. The HP39GII works in exactly the same way, so you know straight away what to do. But everything works really well. On the home screen calculations can be shown in textbook display with quotients and indices shown correctly. Divisions are shown fraction form where needed and an approx key comes up which converts to a decimal approximation. The graphing screen is superb. Clear smooth lines, clear dark axes and subtle grey grid lines. Pressing the + or – keys zooms in and out. Everything happens really fast. Continue reading The New HP39GII

Cape Town Maths

Two weeks ago, I had a very nice trip down to Cape Town. It is a very beautiful city indeed. However, I did a series of sessions mixing HP Graphing Calculators, GeoGebra and Data Streaming to groups of maths teachers, trainee maths teachers and undergraduate engineering students at the Cape Penninsula Technical University and the University of the Western Cape. South Africa, in the post apartheid era has been trying to bring all of its education systems up to the level of the former elite schools. As you can imagine, this is a tough task, although the government’s commitment is clear having one of the highest proportional spends on education anywhere in the world. The universities I visited are excellent examples of that move to change and I was delighted to work with really enthusiastic students and teachers. Continue reading Cape Town Maths

HP STEM Activity Competition

To any teachers out there who come across my blog, we have a competition:

WIN 30 HP40GS calculators and a data streaming kit (worth £2000)

We are setting up an exemplar STEM teaching room for teachers. We need top quality activities to do in the room, which will be premiered at the Olympia BETT show. We need a detailed exposition of the activity together with any supporting materials (e.g. worksheets etc.) In entering, you give us permission to use the activity (suitably credited) in the STEM room and in a booklet which we will produce with all of the entries and which will be available free to teachers. We would like activities using HP39/40GS or 50G graphing calculators, but any other software which runs under windows (and therefore on the new HP windows 7 slate) would do fine. The activity must be an application which merges mathematics with science or engineering. Send one zipped folder of files with your full contact details to: chris.olley@kcl.ac.uk. Closing date is Friday 9th of December.

Impressive Maths Thinkers

It is easy to be a bit jaundiced about A level maths, when you see the drill and practice text books with the exam board’s logo on the front and student’s in permanent practice, practice mode because of the modular exams. Well, I had an excellent day in a non-selective, state sixth form college, working with two groups of charming A level maths and further maths students. Continue reading Impressive Maths Thinkers

HP Graphing Calculators at A-Level

I am working with a group of A level students who have received an HP39GS graphing calculator. They got the calculators a couple of weeks ago, so hopefully they will at least have opened the package and turned the thing on. I will have about 3 or 4 hours with each of two groups tomorrow to give them ideas of things they can do with the machine. Clearly we live in a gadgety time. A lot of people will get a new phone every year or so, which is basically a computer, running a range of software packages, notably communication systems, but also, pretty much anything you care to mention. Continue reading HP Graphing Calculators at A-Level