Thoughts from a Pre-AP Calculus Workshop

By Tech Powered Dad | March 17, 2011

Kind of a random post here, but I spent Tuesday at a pre-AP Calculus workshop hosted at Triton College in River Grove, IL. My school added AP Calculus a year ago. Obviously, we have been slow to the Advanced Placement party (not sure why the hesitation—definitely not coming from the math department).

As a Pre-Calculus teacher, I was very interested to see what sorts of topics the College Board would emphasize in a Pre-AP conference. We were fortunate to have a very knowledgeable and engaging instructor. She started by introducing herself and, somewhat to my surprise, asked us to share with the group how familiar we were with graphing calculators. Over the next 6 hours, we spent most of our time working through sample problems using graphing calculators, looking through apps, menus, graph features and more. A couple of things stuck out to me over the course of the day.

First, having spent a lot of time writing about graphing calculators on Tech Powered Math over the last few months, it’s easy to forget that not everybody is glued to the rapid changes in this technology over the last year. Our instructor talked about the new TI-Nspire CX and filled everybody in on the Casio Prizm. The other participants in the group were all very knowledgeable and dedicated teachers, and even in such a group, it was obvious that not everybody had heard about the new options for their classrooms. The workshop had been planned for the TI-Nspire CAS, but there was some sort of mix-up, so we ended up on the TI-84 instead. A lot of time was spend going over the new features of TI-84 2.53 MP (and also 2.55), which if you’ve never seen it before, makes the calculator feel like a whole new device.

Second, I was interested to see how dedicated the College Board is to seeing the graphing calculator integrated in the courses leading up to AP Calculus. The core of our experience was built around a College Board designed booklet that contained 5 in-depth learning modules, all of which had graphing calculator explorations as their foundation. I had assumed a graphing calculator might be part of our workshop, but not to the level that we experienced. The calculator was far more than an answer finder in these lessons. With this type of training, the College Board has done a nice job demonstrating to teachers how graphing calculators can be used to understand math on a deeper level.

All in all, it was a very good day. I learned a couple of new tricks on the TI-84 involving parametric equations to help students visualize distance vs. time, and in general, it was nice to spend a day think about how the lessons I teach today can set the table for my students to experience success at higher level of thinking in mathematics.

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