Chemistry, Technology, Baseball, Swimming

RPN Club – The New Woobie!



What type of relationship do you have with your calculator? Do you use it to do your bidding? Or is it smarter than you? Do you use it for emotional support? DO you feel smarter when you are holding it? Have you ever answered a question by merely holding up the screen t show another? THE ORACLE SPEAKS!

84 PlusI’m not a Ti-84 #hater by any means nor am I opposed to the effective application of technology to solve complex mathematical problems. In fact, I think using such devices allows us to reach concepts and complexities not possible otherwise. I recall using a calculator in school and how much I depended on its proper functioning so I absolutely understand attachment to these. But I also know that Texas Instruments won the marketing war for calculator usage in the school market, despite not necessarily making the best product. The current TI devices are unnecessarily complex and can do more than most students would ever dream of performing… on a calculator. (Hint – we now have phones, computers, laptops, portables)

Let me describe a common scenario in teaching chemistry or physics. I am writing on the board and laying out the process to solve a multi-step problem and answering questions about how each decision is made along the way. After getting to the end of the problem I write the numbers necessary to compute the final answer in the form needed to get the resultant answer. I solicit answers from the students for the problem and hilarity ensues! It could take five minutes to get them to agree on what the proper number actually is, despite being given the numbers and the formula needed to achieve it. And this course is 99% addition / subtraction / multiplication / division processes! Yet they insist that they are smarter using their device and hate being told to use anything else. Typical…

NotEqualMy idea: show them an alternate way to calculate, and maybe they will see beyond their woobie. [LINK] I think that it is my job to provoke thought, even when it goes counter to what they have been taught before or in other classes. My intent is NOT to #hate on other classes – other teachers – other ways. I am just a science teacher trying to help my students thoughtfully think and approach a problem.

RPN Club

  • Goal – create incentives for students to think differently about how they solve problems
  • Reward – students earn +1 for any quiz / test that requires calculation once in the Club
  • Entry – students must pass a test using the teacher’s RPN calculator
  • Note 1 – test must be passed on the first attempt (no retakes possible)
  • Note 2 – no paper or storing of numbers in the calculator is allowed during the test
  • Note 3 – after entering the Club, student must use RPN calculator for all remaining quizzes / tests
  • Note 3 – refusal to use the RPN calculator results in permanent removal from the Club
  • Note 4 – I will only discuss this with students at Office Hours



This entry was posted on February 6, 2015 by in Philosophy, Stories, Technology and tagged , , .


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