This blog post is a story that made me appreciate being a teacher after a long, exasperating month. This is the story of a student discovering a CAS device for the first time.
Background: This student is a 9th grader who had me for a class other than his Algebra I class which he took from another teacher. I have my TI-Nspire CAS handhelds at the back on the room on the chargers. All students know them as “calculators” and tend to ignore them unless they are closer than the computer or their phone to calculate.
Story: One day a student was waiting for a group member at the back of the classroom to make a phone call pertaining to a project. He noticed the CAS handhelds and said, “I always wondered what these were. Can I play with one?”
Me: “Of course you can but make sure you do not neglect your project.”
The student turns the handheld on and exclaims, “Cool! I wish I had one of these.”
He continues to investigate the functions of the handheld his other project forgotten. I think to myself, “This is a teachable moment.”
Me: “Do you know those calculators are special?”
Student: “What do mean?”
Me: “Type 1 apple + 2 apple and press enter.”
Student: “Oh my gosh it says 3 apple! What if I add something else?”
Me: “Try whatever object you want.”
Student investigates a little more then says, “I need one of these for my math class. Can I please, please, please do homework?”
Me: “This is not study hall. What about your project?”
Student: “I promise to work harder tomorrow on my project if you will let me do math homework today! please, please, please.”
Me: “I guess.” (I really wouldn’t have passed up a chance to teach a student some math but I didn’t want to give in too easy.)
Student gets out math and finds his assignment.
Me: “What are you working on?”
Student: “Quadratics with that equation thingy.”
Me: “Well this particular calculator will allow you to enter your expression and receive and answer in radical form.”
Student: “Really? I want to try.” Student works a few problems and is amazed by the results. The student even uses it to teach another student who was absent for the lesson. This went on for a while and I was loving just watching the learning. The student eventually investigated what the graph looked like and why it isn’t always 2 solutions. Then the student made me feel wonderful. He said, “I wish I had you as my math teacher, Mrs. Bonds.” He probably just wanted the handhelds but it blessed me and made my heart swell. I need days like that to remind me why I became a teacher.