The TI-83 appeared only 6 years after Miami Vice but it and the upgrade versions are still suggested or even required in SOME* US colleges (see gallery of math syllabi below). This has implications for math classes in high schools, as seen in many teacher Facebook posts.

*In a previous iteration of this post I wrote “many” and wanted to clarify.

Teachers are faced with a dilemma, do they use Miami vice era technology because the higher institutes of learning may require it or do they avail themselves and their students of user-friendly and effective technology like Desmos, which is FREE!

I suggest using Desmos (or similar technology) to unpack topics and then assigning practice with the TI model of choice, with it used on the tests as well. This will mirror what students will likely see in college.

To make this situation even more disjointed, a commonly used math placement test for colleges does not allow either Desmos or a TI calculator.

Clockwise from top left: syllabi from CCSU (Connecticut), Gordon State, Texas A&M Commerce, THE Ohio State University, University of Kentucky, and University of Oregon.

I used this site, Explorelearning, with a 7th grader with Aspergers who tested at a 1st grade math and reading level. We used the Photo Synthesis Lab (screen shot below) to gather experimental data on the hypothesis “what helps flowers grow?” He won at the school level and went on to district competition.

(As of April 2020 you can get free 60 day unlimited access.)

This can be a game changer for students with special needs who struggle with math. The Desmos graphic calculator allows students to interact with math equations through multiple representations. It is far superior to graphing calculators in terms of quality and ease of use and is free. The app for Smartphones is outstanding.

Here are features that make this calculator user-friendly and an outstanding instructional strategy.

Students can click on dots and the ordered pair will appear (see top photo below).

Students can change features of the equation and immediately see how the graph changes.

Students can collect data and create a graph and convert the data into “mathy” representations like equations (see top photo below).

Dragon Box (link to website here) presents solving equations, proportions (and fractions and expressions) using an alternative representation and in a highly engaging game format (different platforms!).

In the photo above, the goal is to get the treasure chest by itself. To do this, the fly looking thing and the snake have to be eliminated. First eliminate the snake with the black background (a night card) by placing the other snake card on top of it (a day card). The day card snake must be placed on the right side as well. The day and night card (representing positive and negative numbers) become a circulating hurricane looking card (which represents a zero).

I used it with my 5 year old son (video here) and he could solve 2 step equations (on the game) independently within a couple hours. This is a game changer in teaching kids algebra.

This is a screen shot from explorelearning’s Gizmos. This site has various simulations related to science and math. This one shows multiple reprsentations for a system of equations. The site has 5 minute test trials which can be used to present a topic in class. I used the one for photosynthesis for a 7th grader with asperger’s who was collecting data for his science fair project.

In lieu of a school having to make technology available for vast numbers of kids it is possible to use personal technology. The apps identified here can be useful in a math course.

Polls would allow personally relevant data collection and could lead to modeling opportunities (not on the runway, models like linear functions).

Plinky would allow a high tech version of an exit slip.

Group Tweet would allow collaboration on a project and provide details for a student who is absent. You could match kids with kids at another school…maybe another country!

Received a Tweet from a parent asking about a particular disability. While I do not have experience with the disability in question, I feel I have the tools to address any disability. This is largely due to my professional training.

For my master’s in special ed I took an assistive technology (AT) course at the University of Saint Joseph. The first night the instructor, Carolann Cormier, revealed indirectly that AT (and special education in general) was essentially a problem-solving endeavor.

This was an epiphany. Since that one night I have had the mindset of using problem-solving and thinking outside the box to meet student needs. I give Carolann tremendous credit and identify that course as being one of the best I have ever had. Examples of how this has manifest in my teaching is evident on this blog, e.g. color coding and graphing on the computer.