/ 3 April 2011

Standardised calculators put to the test

Oxford Educational Supplies (OES) has partnered with a United States-based company, Texas Instruments (TI), to enhance the teaching of maths through calculator technology.

TI is a global enterprise known for developing and selling semiconductors (electrical devices used to operate radios, computers, telephones and other related gadgets) and computer technology whereas Oxford distributes calculator technology in Europe.

Julie Viljoen, the regional head of OES in South Africa, said the initiative came about after they realised that teachers and learners often used different calculators with different features in the same classroom.

She said some kind of standardisation was needed. They wanted to ensure teachers used up-to-date and relevant technology in a “standardised fashion”. With standardisation, they could test whether teachers found it easier and quicker to explain concepts when all students in the class used the same calculator. She said the project was being piloted this year, with selected high schools each receiving 30 to 40 of the best calculators loaded with the appropriate technology.

OES would also choose a “handful of appropriate candidates” to attend a course on advanced teaching and learning.

Viljoen said that, apart from supplying calculators, they would also supply software, which could be loaded on to a PC or laptop and projected on to a white board by using a Proxima projector.

She said visualisation was another key component of the project. “Studies have shown that kids learn more if they can visualise the issue at hand. Each of the calculators we offer has the ability to visually display maths equations, functions and solutions.”

The Teacher spoke to two teachers involved in the project at the Southlands Secondary School in KwaZulu-Natal. Gonna Pillay, the principal of the school, said they received 43 Casio calculators.

“Although it is early days yet, we see this as an ideal opportunity for us to become part of the technological world. We are really excited about this initiative and would support it all the way,” said Pillay.

Lawrence Naidoo, a grade 10 maths teacher, echoed Pillay’s sentiments. He said: “Although we have just started using the calculators quite recently, I can already see the potential benefits. What I like most about them is that they have the same features and most learners do not struggle to use them. “Neither do I have to spend time studying volumes of manuals to understand how to operate them. So far it is exciting, I must say,” Naidoo said.