The graphic calculator as a thinking tool: Perspectives from the classroom

Year: 2001

Author: Groves, Susie, Obregon, Deodato

Type of paper: Refereed paper

For over a decade the graphic calculator has been promoted not only as a computational tool but also as a thinking tool — for example, as an aid to enhance conceptual understanding, as a problem-solving tool and as a means of enabling students to engage in meaningful investigations. However, research studies focusing on these aspects have shown mixed results and have mostly focused on graphs and functions. This paper reports on one aspect of a case study in a year 10 mathematics classroom — the role of the graphic calculator as a thinking tool. Data from observations of nine statistics lessons and interviews with the teacher and five students are analysed from three perspectives: the teacher’s intentions with respect to the use of the graphic calculator as a tool to promote conceptual understanding as opposed to procedural competence; the opportunities afforded during the lessons for student investigation; and students’ views of how the graphic calculator enhanced conceptual understanding. The results provide insights into ways in which students perceive the graphic calculator as promoting conceptual understanding, as well as some of the difficulties encountered in practice in a classroom.