The TI-89 Graphing Calculator
Most computer programs, CGI, and engineering careers rely on higher-level mathematics. Algebra forms a base for all upper level mathematical concepts. In algebra, one tool that can help students understand more clearly the concepts of mathematics involves the use of a graphing calculator. In my classroom, we use the Texas Instruments - 83 or -89. Both are powerful tools that allow easy computation of otherwise tedious calculations. However, the knowledge and algorithms used for these calculations are not omitted. For example, I would not allow a student in elementary algebra to use their calculator to divide 234 by 16 unless he or she has proven on a quiz they are able to do it by hand. That way, the calculator becomes a tool, not a crutch.
In my IEP, I have 7 lessons that involve the use of a TI-89, complete with screen captures on a Powerpoint Presentation. The lesson plans assume the students know the concepts put forth, and are simply using their calculators to get an accurate picture of how certain functions behave and how to perform various matrix operations. Again, these lesson plans are used only after a student has shown me that they know how to multiply two matrices, for example, using algorithms learned prior.