The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of TI-Nspire graphing calculator use on student achievement and on teacher behavior variables of planning, teaching, and assessing. This study investigated the teaching of functions by teachers using the TI-Nspire graphing calculator versus teachers using a non-graphing scientific calculator.
A review of the literature found that the emergence of calculators and computers has changed the way mathematics is both done and used (Ellington, 2006; Thorpe, 1989; & Kieran, 1992). Research also showed that students can effectively use a graphing calculator as an instructional tool to make and understand different types of representations (Choi-Koh, 2003; Colgan, 1993; and Drijvers & Doorman, 1996). Other studies have shown how graphing calculator use has engaged students in higher level thinking skills (Dessart, DeRidder, Charleen, & Ellington, 1999; Ellington, 2006; Graham & Thomas, 1998; Keller & Hirsch, 1998; Huntley, Rasmussen, Villarubi, Sangtong, & Fey, 2000; & Ronau et al., 2008). Since it is a relatively new tool, there is a limited amount of research on the classroom use of the TI-Nspire. The TI-Nspire is designed to link together multiple-representations within a single problem, so the concept of functions is an ideal context within which to study the impact of the TI-Nspire.
This was a quasi-experimental study. The researcher gathered and analyzed pre-test, post-test, and post post-test data on student performance on function concepts. The study included a 90 minute classroom observation of each class as well as document analysis of weekly questionnaires, daily lesson plans, and daily assessments. Vignettes employed classroom observations, document analysis, and thick description to triangulate the results of the qualitative analysis.
During the summer prior to this study, all teachers attended 12 hours of training over the course of two days with a National Texas Instruments Instructor in which they were trained to use the TI-Nspire graphing calculator. Teachers were then given a TI-Nspire, TI-Nspire emulator and access to online Atomic learning video training (Atomic Learning, 2011), to continue their exploration of the TI-Nspire. The week prior to the study, the teachers attended another day of professional development activity taught by a Texas Instruments Trained Cadre member. This “Function Focused Session” was six hours long and provided review on the TI-Nspire, specific training about teaching the function concept with the TI-Nspire, and time to create lesson plans and activities for this study. During the two weeks of treatment and two weeks of follow up, teachers met once a week for “Weekly Touchdown Sessions,” a 90 minute meeting held after school to complete a weekly questionnaire, turn in lesson plans, assessments, and receive further professional development on the TI-Nspire. Providing a trained Texas Instruments Instructor on a weekly basis to answer questions, assist in providing direction for the following week, and meeting weekly with the teachers to complete questionnaires were vital strategies necessary to support teachers with this new technology tool and to assure their fidelity in treatment implementation and control maintenance. All professional development sessions were taught by Texas Instruments trained Instructors.
The results from four teachers, each with one treatment class using the TI-Nspire and one control class using a non-graphing scientific calculator, were significant on the pre-test with the control group having a higher mean score than the treatment group and statistical significance on the post post-test with the treatment group having a higher mean score than the control group. While there was a statistically significant effect of Teacher Zeta on the post-post test in comparisons with the other teachers, most of the teacher effect was controlled for within the design of the study. To control for teacher effect, all teachers taught both a treatment and a control class. For each teacher, one of their two algebra classes was randomly assigned to treatment and the other was then assigned to control. There was not enough power in the data to properly analyze the effect of socioeconomic status and special education.
This study supports the use of TI-Nspire graphing calculators in Algebra classrooms while studying the concept of functions. This study shows that, while using the TI-Nspire graphing calculator, the use of multiple representations and higher Depth of Knowledge activities can be used to improve student achievement, and impact classroom teaching, and lesson planning. While this study shows the impact of the TI-Nspire graphing calculator for the concept of functions, further research is needed to continue evaluating the impact of the TI-Nspire across additional mathematics topics.