Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Can't Keep A Good Calculator Down

Folks, I have exciting news for you tonight. I have just resurrected 5 TI-83+ calculators from the dead on my kitchen island this evening. After a short surgical procedure, I am happy to report that all five calculators are alive and doing well.

You see, although my school can afford fancy new red turf for our football field, we don't seem to have the funds to replace any of our aging calculators. I've been nursing my classroom set of 30 ever since I inherited them shortly after being hired at "Paradise" high school.

In case you don't know how to restore dead calcualtors, here are three steps to try. Try the steps in order. Sometimes I get lucky and step one will work and I won't need to use the other steps.

1. Remove all four batteries. Press and Hold the [ON] key for 10 seconds. Then put the batteries back into the graphing calculator and turn on. May need to readjust screen’s contrast again.

2. Remove one of the AAA batteries. Press and hold the [CLEAR] key. While holding [CLEAR], reinsert the AAA battery and then turn the calculator on. The calculator should display the message "RAM Cleared". Release the [CLEAR] key and then press it one more time to remove the message.

3. Remove one of the AAA batteries. Press and hold the [DEL] key. While holding [DEL], reinsert the AAA battery and then turn the calculator on. The calculator should display "Waiting...Please install calculator software now". Follow the instructions for the TI-83 family or TI-84 Plus family to reinstall the calculator operating system.

If steps 1-3 don't work, it is time to resort to step #4 and that is what I did tonight.

4. Remove all of the batteries including the round lithium battery for 5 minutes. After the 5 minute period, reinsert all of the batteries and turn the calculator on. Adjust the contrast if necessary.

Now, drum roll please. . .. . Here are my calcualtors after surgery! Tonight I was successful in restoring 5 calculators that I thought I was going to have to scrap!!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Final Exam Time!

As much as I hate giving semester exams after Christmas, I love the fact that Wed-Fri of this week consists of half-days. I've been cleaning my room, working on new posters for my word wall, printing out work for our systems unit coming up, and trying to get to the bottom of all my piles. I've also gone to lunch with my coworkers each day and did not have to gulp down my food!

In other good news, I am enjoying teaching in a school where I don't have to curve the hell out of my Algebra I final just to keep 60% of the class from failing the first semester. In fact, I didn't curve them at all. Our final exams are made at the district level, but overall I was happy with this one. The exam grades came out fairly close to their average in the class.

The only thing that frustrated me was the fact that there are some kids who can look at a multiple choice question like "write the equation of the line that passes through the points (0, 4) and (1, 2)" and get the wrong answer even after they plot the two points on a grid and notice that the line is "falling" and therefore must have a negative slope. Or they could notice that the y-intercept was 4 and mark out two of the bad answers. Two popular answers for this question: y = 2x + 4 and
y = -2x + 6. I guess I shouldn't be too upset, 80% of my students got that question correct, but it still bugs me that 20% still don't have enough reasoning skills to eliminate the bad answer choices!

Here is another one that really bothered me. Only 54% of my students got this one correct. John goes to the barbershop for a haircut. His haircut is $15 and he leaves a 15% tip. How much change should John get if he pays with a $20 bill? Oh and by the way, this question was not multiple choice. It was what we call a "griddable" item. I looked through their booklets and saw some pretty interesting methods being used to solve this problem, but not many were correct. I think in middle school, they get so hung up on formulas and the percent ratio that they just don't learn to think a problem through logically.

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