**UPDATED with Table of Values section below and mixed to improper conversion
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.
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).
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
I had totally forgotten about this function, thankfully my Twitter colleagues @MrCarterMaths and @Mathematical_A reminded me!
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).
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.
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.
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).
Check out our free and premium resources in our Store.