CAS - which way to go?
Monday 22 August 2011
This blog entry was written as part of a reflection on the ICTMT 10 conference held in July in Portsmouth, UK.
CAS for schools is tricky decision at the moment, but I must confess that this conference has helped me to narrow down some of those decisions. Mathematica, Maple and TI-Nspire are the names that seem to rise to the top and I am interested in all three. The first two are probably more capable then we actually need for secondary school. At our school, we still use and enjoy an old version of Derive that we have on our system at school and have been looking at ways to get TI Nspire for all our computers. We have been playing with single user licenses and like what it does, but we don’t want to invest in the handheld technology. We have the luxury of 1 to 1 computers and I am still of the view that advances in smartphone technology will take over handheld calculators as soon as exam boards catch up. This is no small point however, and the exam boards are the ‘joker in the pack’ as one teacher put it, for CAS enabled calculators as the leap into allowing smartphones or effectively computers into exams is huge and one that will cost exam boards a large amount of time and money and so they are likely to hold out as long as they can. More frustrating than this is that TI appear, not surprisingly, much more interested in selling the handhelds than they do the emulator software. As a result, I feel priced out of all three of those top runners, TI, Mathematica and Maple.
I was then, fascinated to learn more about the development of the freely available Maxima from Chris Sangwin. Even better than this is the collaboration with Geogebra to integrate maxima thus creating one great tool that will combine so many of our needs in secondary schools. CAS, graphing and dynamic geometry all integrated and linked! A beta version of this software is available GeogebraCAS and the official launch is due this month. I for one am looking forward to it. Of course, the next discussion is to think in more detail about how to get the maximum benefit from this software in the classroom. See Investigating Quadratic Factors and Finding Factors for examples of investigations, using CAS (with "how to" video help for Geogebra 4.0 CAS, WolframAlpha, TiNspire Derive), that offer the opportunity for students to 'discover' for themselves the concept of factorising. Watch this space for further applications ....