Home > Algebra 1, Algebra 2, PreCalculus > Calculator Boot Camp

Calculator Boot Camp

I based this idea on something I stole from samjshah.  Sam does an algebra boot camp for his calculus students during the first week of school.  If you have taught calculus before, you know that the calculus is easy, but most students struggle with the algebra involved in it.  I transferred  this idea to my Algebra 2 students.

The Algebra 2 standards in TN are overwhelming.  After teaching it for 2 years, I  found that most of my time was spent teaching students how to use the graphing calculator.  My students do not use a graphing calculator in Algebra 1.  This is their first exposure to this type of technology.  This year, instead of repeating the same steps everyday and getting frustrated, I decided to do a calculator boot camp the first week.

On the second day of school, I give the students this lab on how to graph a function and change the window.  It will also address how to utilize the table feature of the TI-84.  On day two, students will work on finding zeros on the TI-84 and finding maximums and minimums on a graph.  On the third day of the boot camp, students will learn how to input data into a table and find the measures of central tendencies.    My plan is to give the students an assessment at the end of boot camp to test their calculator skills.  My goal is that students have the basic skills to navigate the calculator and to give them the confidence to explore the calculator on their own.  I will post on my success with this after the first week of school.

  1. August 6, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    I absolutely love this idea!

    It sparked an idea! One thing that kids really struggle with on the calculator for me in Algebra 2 is coming up with a good window range that shows all features of a graph given an equation/polynomial. Maybe this could be a different calculator bootcamp later in the year (like you start out giving an equation and you show a graph with good Xscls and Yscls and you ask them to find the window that produces that… and you end by just giving an equation and asking students to come up with a window and Xscl & Yscl that shows all the features of it)? I am not teaching Algebra 2 next year, but if I was, I would definitely use your bootcamp and also create this one asking for a good window later…

    The only thing that would be hard for me is to ween kids off of ZoomFit as the of all and end all… so I would pick equations that ZoomFit fraks up…

    Thanks for sharing!

    • August 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      Thanks so much! The window range is killer for my kids too and the zoom fit doesn’t work all of the time. I will definitly use the set the windo idea. This is the biggest problems my kids have. I guess it is so logical for me and I guess and check and know how to change it and they really struggle with it. I definitly need to investigate equations that zoom fit fraks up. I may be tweeting you asking for some 🙂 I know they are out there.

  2. kristin
    August 7, 2012 at 4:41 am

    i like the idea, too. But I will change it around for my students who will use geogebra.

    • August 7, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Great idea! I never thought of this, but it would definitly help my kids who use geogebra and struggle. I just hate spending so much time during the year on what I consider procedural items. My thought is that I can at least knock out the basics the first week. If you create a lab for geogebra, I would love to have a copy 🙂

  3. Jennifer Lamb
    August 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I like how you put at the top of your worksheet – if your calculator is “messed up” then follow these steps — calculators in my class always get “messed up” too – of course it’s the calculator – not the calculator operator : )

  4. August 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Amber! I think this is a great idea! The links did not open for me though. Could this just be on my end? I appreciate you sharing your materials. 🙂

    • September 6, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      I would be more than happy to email you all of the documents our department created for Calculator Boot Camp. You can email me at ambercaldwell@gmail.com and let me know you would like copies of those documents. I hope this helps you. Thanks.

  5. Betsy Gilbert
    October 26, 2012 at 1:56 am

    I do something similar at the beginning of school. I do a calculator scavenger hunt where the students have to learn how to use the calculator. I just started it last semester and it really helped during the semester.

  6. August 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Did you ever write an assessment for this?

  7. Mary Hiller
    August 17, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Could you possibly email me the assessment also?

    • August 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm

      No problem. I hope they help. Feel free to modify.

  8. Deanna Pickel
    June 2, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Can I get the assessments as well? I just finished teaching my first year of teaching and was shocked at how little the kids knew about their calculators!

  9. Melissa Norwood
    June 4, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Hi, Amber, I love this idea. I gave a calculator “cheat sheet,” last year, but it was never used by students to see how to adjust windows or find different parts of the calculator or functions like regression or how to change to degrees or radians. They always ASKED ME! So I plan to do this in the fall. Could you please send me the assessment you used? I am so looking forward to the empowerment that comes from knowing how to use a tool! Thank you!!

  1. August 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm
  2. September 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm

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