Select Page

## Efficient Calculator Use

The need for pupils to be comfortable and confident with their calculator by the end of their KS4/GCSE studies is not new, but the new 9-1 specification has brought to my attention some new methods (not necessarily functions) that would benefit pupils in being able to perform using and navigating their calculators efficiently.  As we follow the AQA 8300 specification many of this appear repeatedly in the practice papers. You might also be interested in our blog Can you Pay my Bills? 9-1 GCSE blog post, which looks at the bank statements, invoices and pay calculations as seen in the AQA practice papers. Any of the calculator methods described are not to replace understanding or written methods, in fact they are based on a mastery of techniques, particularly when considering remainders.

### Fractions

The new 9-1 specification AQA calculator papers include questions such as this calculation below. When performed correctly this would result in an improper fraction and pupils would be required to change to a mixed number.

I couldn’t understand why so many of my students were getting this wrong.  So I asked a pupil to show me how they were entering this in the calculator and it turned out the problem was entering mixed numbers! The pupils were using the primary fraction button (red arrow) and using the ‘back’ button to insert the whole part before the fraction! The calculator would then interpret this as whole multiplied by the fraction part!!! When in fact they need to use the secondary function (green arrow) in order to insert the mixed number correctly.

These questions will give answers as an improper fraction and pupils may need to convert to mixed numbers (depending on the question requirements). Using the S>D function would give the whole part; instead use the shift button to activate the mixed to improper (orange arrow to left).

### FACT Function

Although I have shown pupils this function in the past I have been reluctant to push it’s use because pupils need to complete prime factor decomposition for the non-calculator paper.  However, increasingly expressing a product as its prime factors or finding the HCF/LCM is present on the new 9-1 calculator papers.  To use this function, input the number for example 225, enter, then shift “FACT” and the calculator will express as a product of it’s primes.  This was Q 24 from paper 2 of the foundation AQA practice set 3 which required pupils to express 225 as a product of it’s prime factors, this is awarded two marks. Pupils will save time if they use this function and that time can be used to complete the HCF/LCM part of the question.

This function can also help with questions requiring pupils to identify larger prime numbers as seen in Q3 of the Foundation AQA practice set 4, paper 3. If it is a prime number for e.g 97, after using the FACT function 97 would be displayed; therefore it is prime.

### Table of Values

Select mode (green arrow) which will give the four options seen on the display. Select option 3 : TABLE. You are then prompted by f(x) to enter the function, enter the function using the ALPHA key  and the bracket key with the X (red arrows). Ensure pupils check carefully that they have entered this correctly.  You are then prompted with “START?” followed by “END?”, both referring to the range of values of X in the table, e.g. from -2 to 5 (remember to us (-) for minus two), press enter after each. The final prompt is “STEPS?”, i.e. what is X going up in (most often one). Then a table of values is given in a vertical format. @Mathematical_A has mentioned that the new FX991EX has dual tables!!

Here is a video tutorial from @GuideCalculator on this function and you might also be interested in using the table function to complete trial and improvement (although not explicitly on the new specification, it could fall under iteration).

### Remainders

Here is one of the treasure hunt cards requiring remainder to be found, again this was originally poorly answered by my pupils despite it being on one of the calculator papers. This style of question is seen in the AQA foundation practice papers, for example Q12 from paper 3 of set 3.

Below is the method we show pupils to tackle this efficiently; this slide is taken from our Walking Talking Mock.

### Rounding

Scientific calculators can be used to set a number of decimal places (using shift>set up>6. Fix), however this is not something that I choose to show pupils; they should be able to round correctly and there’s too much of chance they don’t change it back! So instead it is good ‘exam technique’ to insist pupils write down the whole answer and then round as required. Again a slide from our walking talking mock on the left demonstrates these calculator paper tips.

To help refine pupils calculator paper skills we have produced some resources for use with a scientific calculator and knowledge of skills such as Pythagoras’ Theorem, Trigonometry etc. Therefore this resource is best used once you’re confident pupils have the range of skills on the topics listed below.

### 9-1 Calculator Use Resources

The first new resource is our 9-1 Efficient Calculator Use Treasure Hunt activity differentiated to two levels; amber and green. The amber level covers the following topics; finding remainders, calculating with fractions, improper to mixed, area of fraction of circle, product of primes, Pythagoras, Rounding. The green level covers Trigonometry, remainders, compound interest, density, rounding, area of sector, scales, conversions, using formula. Each of these require pupils to round correctly i.e. decimal places or significant figures.

Check out our Treasure Hunt blog post for different ways to use treasure hunt activities in the classroom and beyond.

The second resource is our 9-1 Efficient Calculator Use Worksheets which includes two worksheets to complement the first resource to make a full lesson or use as homework. Worksheet 1 covers six topics (powers/roots, place value, remainders, primes, fractions and percentages). Worksheet 2 covers three overall topics but each progresses in challenge (use of formula, right angled triangles i.e. Pythagoras’ theorem and trigonometry, circles (arcs/sectors).

What calculator tips do you give your pupils? Get in touch @numberloving or NumberLoving’s Facebook page.

Check out our free and premium resources in our Store.

## Can you Pay my Bills? 9-1 GCSE

A quick hello to all readers! It has been a while, we have been busy behind the scenes creating new resources to meet the new 9-1 specification.

Bills and Statements, Debits & Credits, Task Cards is one of our latest resources which is designed to cover all money related questions as seen on the new 9-1 specification GCSE, in particular on the AQA exam board.  This resource includes 5 Bill Statement, 4 Pay statements and 4 Bank statement task cards, instructions and solutions. Here is an example of one of the task cards, in this task card pupils are required to find the missing balances from the bank statement, ensuring pupils understand ‘debit’ and ‘credit’.

To complete this resource we have designed this quic and simple starter resource, included in the download. Pupils answer questions on mini-whiteboard. In doing this activity first with my class I was able to introduce terminology such as debit, VAT and recap calculating pay (see the example below)

Check back soon for our next blog on calculator use resources!

Check out our free and premium resources in our Store.

## Easter Mathematical Treasure Trove

Another Easter resource we would like to share!

This collect a joke resource requires pupils to perform increasingly difficult addition and subtraction of fractions. Watch out for the red herrings! Purchase it from here!

Check out our other blogs for Easter ideas!

An Eggciting Eggstravanganza of Resources

From practicing proportion with an Easter cake recipe to making origami rabbits, lots of ideas here to try.

A Lesson Off Never

In this blog we show you how to make pop shapes, use yellow card to make pop up chicks.

How did the resource work for you? Get in touch @numberloving and follow our Facebook NumberLoving Page

Check out our free and premium resources in our Store.

## Exam Technique

Displays

Command Word Display

Print this NumberLoving display for your classroom and use it to reinforce the meaning of command words. They can displayed along side the meaning and it also a good activity to remove the command word and ask the pupils to state the command word given the meaning.

Exam Countdown Display

Print and laminate this exam countdown display, displaying the most appropriate length of time, whether it be months, weeks or days. Using a whiteboard pen this can easily be updated so the countdown to exams is clear for all.

Exam Practice

Encourage pupils not only to read the questions but to triple read the question, each time with a different purpose;

1. Highlight the figures in yellow (numbers or words e.g half)
2. Highlight command words in green

Do this as part of your teaching, highlighting in two colours, modelling by reading aloud with emphasis on command words. It will soon become part and parcel of pupils’ approach to questions.

Start from the back

Little change with the potential of a big impact on pupils’ resilience and mindset. Starting from the back when pupils are more focused and moving towards the front of the paper and the easier questions. Very relevant if working on papers in class, start from the back so pupils can get support from peers, the teacher etc.

However we are not fans of death by past paper, check out our post “Anything but more past papers” for alternative revision techniques.

Walking Talking Mock

This is large scale modelling; modelling as a teaching strategy is simply put as ‘thinking out loud’. Therefore modelling for pupils the thought processes when approaching problems. Pupils will increasingly take this role of modelling, guided and refined by the teacher. The walking-talking mock is described by the Guardian here as the “new initiative intended to boost students’ exam technique”. In brief it is a large scale version of modelling, highlighting exam technique and key exam words, the lead teacher hints, modelling thought processes related to the mock paper in front of the pupil, question by question in the exam hall. Dragonfly Training give a good description of how they ran a walking-talking mock here or check out Kristian Still’s blog here, this is another good example of how to approach the walking talking mock.

Key Skills Builder

As mentioned in our post some topics keep on coming up so it is important that these skills are embedded in pupils’ practice. We discuss exam warm ups as a way of reinforcing and revising vital topics. Check out the blog here.

Has anyone used these strategies or other strategies? We would love to hear you views! Get in touch @numberloving and follow our Facebook NumberLoving Page

Check out our free and premium resources in our TES NumberLoving Store.