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Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Graphing calculators

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From: Harry Petersen

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2001120813:39:37
Subject: Re: Graphing calculators

Most of the time I do not allow calculators on exams. There are two reasons: 1) I want students to explain to me what things mean. For example, "Show what the phrase, 'the limit---->a of a function f = L' means by sketching diagrams. Then provide counterexamples of when the limit does not exist." Calculators do not necessarily help in this kind of conceptual understanding. 2)Students need to reach a certain level of symbolic manipulation so that the geometry and the algebra make sense. This means they need to solve a lot of problems by hand so they will be able to use the Calculus for problems that require an analytical setup. The times that I do allow graphing calculators is when I give Free Response questions that the College Board has asked students in the past few years. I make sure students know the four things that are required for the AP exam and show them a few tricks (such as graphing piecewise functions). In sum, calculators are a tool. They cannot solve problems and are not capable of understanding--only human beings can do this in my view. Harry Petersen Math Chairman Pinewood Prep School

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