Students confront the TI-nSpire

Apr 1, 2008 by

Did I mention that I won a TI-nSpire calculator at ICTCM? (also I won free registration for ICTCM 2009 … but I was really hoping for the Wii … drats!)

I brought it to both my calculus class and my algebra class today to see what my students thought about it.

First reaction from the calculus students: It’s almost as big as my tablet PC … well not quite, but close.

Second reaction from the calculus students: Let’s compare it to things we carry in our pocket. (note – the TI-83 does fit in a front jeans pocket according to my students)

Reaction #3: While the viewing window is bigger (a plus), the actual viewing size of the graphing area is roughly the same.

And finally, from my algebra class … “what do you mean it doesn’t have a color screen?” “what … no wi-fi?” Several of them tried to interact with it by touching the screen. Suprise! No touch screen either. I asked them to pull out the devices that they normally carry with them and we took a picture.

To be fair, two of my calculus students got the TI-nSpire to the point of actually finding an integral or graphing a function. And one of them says I should give it a fair chance … mathematically … and I will. I’m just saying that this design is totally going in the WRONG direction. If I were TI, I’d be designing the nSpire software to run on an iPhone, the Android platform, and the Palm platform. When these student’s phones all have a slightly larger screen and wi-fi access, they will want their calculator in the device too.

See that Sony Palmtop in the left of the last picture? That would’ve been a better design … and would fit in a pocket.

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  1. Steve Armstrong

    Your points about the design of the hardware are well taken. However, I think you should consider the change in the paradigm of how it is used. I’ve been using the -92, -89, -200 family in classes for several years and find it hard to find things I’m used to using also. I have been frustrated finding things like solve() or -> store or trace, but I’m working my way through it.

    I commented earlier on another post that they don’t even want to call it a calculator, it is a “handlheld.”

    You save documents made up of problems, which are made up of pages. The pages can be any one of a calculator page, a spreadsheet/list page, a text page, or a graph page.

    All the pages in a problem can reference the same variables globally (but not those of other problems). Thus I can define a function on the calculator page and use it in either the graph page or the spreadsheet page. Points saved to the spreadsheet page can be plotted on the graph page and a modling function plotted along with. Graph pages can use the geometry constructions and the functional graphs at the same time. Values generated with measurements of geometry items on the graph page can be captured in the spreadsheet page.

    One of the ways the handheld can be used is to have a document with problems (with pages) be the presentation of the lesson material. The students can download the document, interactively work through the pages (with directions given either on a handout or in the text pages, or both). The teacher can either direct them through it step by step or act as a facilitator while the work alone or in groups, or if done as an online course have them upload their work for evaluation.

    Visit the TI Nspire site and look at some of the lessons to get a hang of the way the paradigm works.

    Given your reaction (and similar reactions on other blogs and forums), it will be interesting to see if the whole thing takes off. TI Interactive is cool, but I don’t have the impression it is widely used.

  2. Ethan

    first of all if you want to do algebra use the Ti-nspire cas… (ie solve() and derivatives…)

    second of all, no school in the right mind will EVER allow their students to use phones as a calculator supplement… these are SAT approved (and in my experience just barely)… that means they shouldn’t be able to text message or search the web.

    additionally the nspire calculator series doesn’t need a color screen-it has 16 shades of Grey! now i will admit that the os is very buggy (at least on the cas model- which i own)… but it hasn’t really been released yet; the Ti-nspire is the ti-83-4 replacement the price point and feature set put it in a possession to be compatible with existing software and handling. but if you want hard-core computing power i suggest you get the CAS model… it goes well beyond the 84 functionality and is positioned to take over the ti-89 titanium (same price as well- both around $136)

    now all it needs is better programing capabilities (it is already Unicode compliant!!!!! )
    and that longed after 3d graphing; but its already my favorite toy!

  3. Maria H. Andersen

    There was a time when instructors believed that “no school in the right mind will EVER allow their students to use …” graphing calculators. So I respectfully disagree.

    Honestly, it would be easier to hit a button that jams the cell phone signals for a test than it would be to put 24 TI-calculators into “test mode.”

    I could also see a model where students use their phones or laptops for graphing calculators during class, and there is a stripped down model of the same graphing calculator OS on $30 calculators – the school would just have a classroom set. If these calculators are made without storage capabilities, and all the bells & whistles that we want to disable on tests, then this would be a viable alternative.

    They are carrying the phones with them at all times. They are NOT carrying their calculators to class. Might as well combine them.

    (there is alreay graphing software that will run on a cell phone, I just have not had a chance to try yet)

  4. Ethan

    Having any sort of cell phone jammer or blocker is a security hazard and therefore is not already employed in the NY school system even though cell phone use is in fact banned. while having a standard calculator for standardized tests is an interesting solution- I have not encountered this “stripped down os” that you speak of. furthermore the regular Ti-nspire does include a nifty test takers feature which disables all 3rd party programs on said calculator and activates a light to notify the proctor.

    i believe the new Ti-nspire’s are a great addition to the very reliable ti series… while a portable os on ones cell phone sounds nice… having windows mobile 6 during a test sounds even better.

  5. Anonymous

    Re: the touch screen suggestion. To be SAT approved I don’t think the device can have a touch screen. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t get the touch screen interface working as well as the iPhone so it would probably frustrate users in the end.

  6. Maria H. Andersen

    Does anyone find it odd that TI is designing a calculator for the SAT/ACT when the calculator spends 99% of its time in the classroom and with students while they study?

    Are we seriously going to be hampered in usability because of the SAT/ACT? Why not allow students to rent or borrow “compliant” calculators (memory-disabled, touch-screen disabled versions of the other TI calculators) when they go to take their exams?

  7. CV

    It seems that this calculator has some compelling reasons to buy it. I found this review helpful especially for the nice pictures. TI-Nspire Calculator
    I would like to better understand the difference though between this model and the TI-Nspire CAS They both seem well built from what I have seen.

  8. Power Invision

    The main thing why they don’t have the features is because of the ACT/SAT tests. That don’t let students use anything with any sort of connection to anything, touch screens or even a QWERTY keyboard!

    The main reason why the size is big is because it uses 4 full size AAA battery’s, and low grade hardware to save on costs.

  9. Anonymous

    Regarding the statement: “Does anyone find it odd that TI is designing a calculator for the SAT/ACT.” I don’t find this odd. Why would a student want a graphing calc that they couldn’t take to state exams and ACT/SAT?

    Regarding the suggestion that TI-Nspire have a touch screen: It sounds like you’re suggesting that students learn how to use the touch screen for normal everyday classroom use…and then not be able to use the touch screen feature in an exam situation? That sounds like a recipe for frustration. Why offer features that students CAN’T use in exam situations? I would be annoyed by that.

    Honestly, I’m not sure a touch screen on such a small viewing window would be helpful. I recently experimented with a graphing calc that has a stylus, but I didn’t find it easy to use. Add to that, the stylus is often lost and is not allowed on exams…

    One thing I would like on the TI-Nspire is a simpler keypad. It’s too easy to press the wrong button. I often do. The handheld screen can get pretty cluttered, which is also a nuisance.

  10. TI Nspire CAS Texas Instruments

    This is a pretty nice calculator with a great functionality and learning tools. If you anybody wants to see more info in spanish. Have a look here Ver Calculadora Graficadora TI Nspire CAS

  11. robatan

    Hey, I am from Michigan, too…but now I am teaching math in Japan…the TI-nspire is really expensive over here…as are all other graphing calcs…about twice the cost…I am thinking about just buying some bulk set of old casio fx-9750g off e-bay…to use in class here…I have been trying to make it mandatory for students to buy them here but parents object mostly because of the cost, i think….

  12. Pete Horne

    I just got an email from TI. They are literally giving away the TI-Nspire instructor software through their Learn and Earn program. It sounds like an emulator that hooks works on PC/Mac computers and with projection capability. From what I gather, they send you the CD, you take some online training and a quiz, and they send you the activation code. If nothing else it may a good way to do some presentation work in class. And free is always good!

    I don’t know how long the offer will be, but the link is:

  13. Now that the TI-Nspire CX is being released, you may want to hold off on purchasing a TI-Nspire until you can get the color version. The TI-Nspire is one of my all time favorite calculators, and I think with the release of 3.0 bringing 3D graphing and photographs, it’s only going to continue to get better.

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