Analyse this

16th May 2003 at 01:00
Calculator Statistics Calculator Calculus. By Barrie Galpin and Alan Graham. Aamp;B Books pound;9.95 each. Tel: 01780 444 360.

Jennie Golding takes a look at two handbooks that use graphic calculators.

These two books are for post-16 students and follow on from the more basic calculator series by the same authors.

Neither is a textbook in the traditional sense, but they do help develop basic ideas through the programming and visual potential of a graphic calculator. They are written specifically for the Texas TI-83 family, but transfer quite easily to similar machines.

Calculator Statistics uses small samples to demonstrate some of the underlying concepts in probability, bias and the central limit theorem, regression, binomial and normal distributions, and hypothesis testing. The text is clear, readable and highly participatory, with frequent tasks (and solutions) for the students. Pitfalls in practical data collection and handling are addressed and common misunderstandings anticipated and dealt with.

I found this an excellent practical handbook which could easily be used by students for the initial exploration of ideas or for consolidation. It could also equally find its place in the departmental library to be used as a foundation for teacher-led classwork.

Calculator Calculus is less versatile. It approaches differentiation and integration from a graphical viewpoint, but an independent student would find the development very slow and laboured. However, used as a complement to teacher exposition and student pencil and paper investigation, some of the approaches and tasks would certainly illuminate understanding of functional analysis and calculus. It is well worth buying for teacher use, with students dipping into it for occasional enrichment.

Jennie Golding is an advanced skills teacher based at Ranelagh School, Bracknell Forest

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