Crossing Over: Math and Science Aren't the Only Subjects Worthy of the TI-83 Plus. Classes from Language Arts to Social Studies to Foreign Language Can Benefit from Its Powerful Capabilities

By Pascopella, Angela | District Administration, November 2001 | Go to article overview

Crossing Over: Math and Science Aren't the Only Subjects Worthy of the TI-83 Plus. Classes from Language Arts to Social Studies to Foreign Language Can Benefit from Its Powerful Capabilities


Pascopella, Angela, District Administration


At Walhalla High School in South Carolina, high school students reading The 13th Warrior in English and studying trade routes in World Geography could predict migration patterns using the TI-83 Plus graphing calculator. Across the nation at Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas, students in a World History Honors class could develop unit value graphs on the handheld and chart their stocks that they "buy" as part of their study of the Great Depression. At Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Va., students in Spanish class could learn verb tenses, vocabulary and spelling using electronic flash cards, or StudyCards, using the same technology.

These are only three examples of how teachers nationwide plan to use TI-83 Plus in classrooms this year, and it's part of the Texas Instruments Multi-Curricular Pilot Project Grant Program that kicked off this year.

Evidently, this technology is not just for math and science anymore.

"The TI-83 Plus is the most pervasive form of handheld technology in schools today," says Tom Ferrio, vice president, Educational & Productivity Solutions for TI. "After looking at the investment schools have made in this technology, that more than 60 percent of high school students nationwide own a TI-83 Plus, and the numerous testimonials about how students enjoy using the device, it was obvious that we needed to find ways to help schools maximize their use."

The TI-83 Plus, small enough to carry in a book bag, could be used for charting time lines or farmable land over time in social studies class, for example. Ferrio says that students can study a year in time and look at what was happening in the same year in science exploration or politics as part of the cross-curricular project. Or learning about South American geography can be fun using StudyCards, which are like flash cards except accessible on the handheld, he says.

Teachers venture into new territory

Virginia teacher Pat Maturo and South Carolina teacher Linda Sell were the first teachers to be awarded the grants to start the Multi-Curricular Pilot program. The teachers each received 30 TI-83 Plus student units and one TI-83 Plus ViewScreen package. Winning teachers also receive on-site training on using the technology and corresponding educational applications, and get paid travel expenses to attend national education conferences where they will share teaching methods with other educators.

TI's market development manager Carter Johnston says the recipients were chosen due to creativity. "The major factor was the type of activities they thought of," Johnston says. "We chose the groups who were the most creative and had a strong belief that the technology would enhance their instruction."

Maturo, also the project's resource person at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Va., says she realized the possibilities of graphing calculators a decade ago. "Once you get over the learning curve of how to use the [graphing] calculator," Maturo says, "it's amazing the applications you can use." For example, she had her students figure out the mass, volume and densities of pennies. The students didn't know there were two types of pennies in the group--one group was comprised of copper pennies and another was mostly zinc. After the students conducted what is called a "T test" using the graphing calculator and saw that there was almost zero probability the two groups were the same, they then figured out the percent composition of the different penny groups, such as mostly copper or mostly zinc. "I tied it all together--chemistry, math" using the calculator, Matura explains. "It's a readily available piece of technology that expanded what I could do.... I fell in love with it."

English teacher Sell, at Walhalla High School in Walhalla, S.C., says the TI-83 Plus could be used in English and World Geography to help students learn the relevance of subjects to real life. …

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