All math students from eighth-graders to seniors at Signal Mountain Middle/High School now have access to Texas Instruments TI-Nsprire calculators, thanks to a $9,100 grant from Tennessee Valley Authority.
"We needed more calculators in the building because of increased enrollment," said SMMHS math teacher Kathy McCormack, whose old set of calculators went to a previously part-time math teacher who is now teaching full-time.
Before, McCormack said her students were using a mix of TI-84 and older-model TI-Nspires, which were similar to the new calculators but without color graphics.
"The colors are nice for instruction in calculus to fill in the area between curves, because you can see the colors and are less likely to get your equations confused," she said.
The TI-Nspire also allows students to switch between graphing and calculator pages, said McCormack.
She said another reason the school chose the TI-Nspire calculator is that students are permitted to use the calculators when taking tests such as the TCAP, ACT, SAT and IB and AP exams. The calculators provide students with an advantage in time, accuracy and the ability to solve equations and look at problems graphically.
"Other students are going to be walking away with these advantages, and we want our students to have that advantage," said McCormack.
"You could do it so much faster," SMMHS senior AP Calculus student Garrett Greer said of using his TI-Nspire on the ACT. "It's like free points."
McCormack and fellow SMMHS math teacher Jennifer Agan each received 30 TI-Nspire calculators, which retail at approximately $150 each, for use in their classrooms.
The grant also provided funding for docking stations, which allow teachers to recharge the calculators' batteries and download TI-Nspire software to 10 calculators at once, she said. The docking stations will save the math department several hundred dollars a year on batteries, as well as the time they would normally spend downloading software to each individual calculator, said McCormack.
Both teachers also received their own TI-Nspire with Computer Algebra System capabilities, which McCormack said enables them to more easily demonstrate algebraic manipulations for students on the Promethean board.
McCormack and Agan use the calculators in all of their classes, which include IB math classes, AP Calculus, Honors Precalculus and Honors Algebra 2.
While the calculators must remain in the classroom, students are permitted to use them during study halls, said McCormack.
TVA's SMMHS liaison Charlie Spencer applied for the grant, which is available to provide funds up to $10,000 for projects and equipment with a math and science focus, said McCormack.