Last year, our district pioneered using the Desmos Test Mode iOS app on STAAR (state) tests. You can read about that here.

For the 2015-16 school year, we knew that the Texas Education Agency updated its calculator policy to extend the possibility of using a tablet-based calculator not only for the Grade 8 mathematics STAAR test, but also for Algebra I, Algebra II and Biology.

While my Algebra students won’t get to use Desmos Test Mode for their STAAR EOC (end-of-course) exam until May, my Math 8 students completed their math testing yesterday. Students had the option of using Desmos Test Mode, a TI-graphing calculator… or BOTH tools if they preferred. Today, I gave my Math 8 students the same survey I gave to my Math 8 students last year.

**I asked three questions:**

- In general, which tool do you prefer?
- Name a few math lesson topics for which you like using the TI Graphing Calculator more than Desmos.
- Name a few math lesson topics for which you like using Desmos more than the TI Graphing Calculator.

Here are the results – while my sample size included more students this year (77 to be exact) the percentages are basically IDENTICAL to last year’s results.

Anonymous student responses can also be seen here —> Math 8 STAAR Calculator Survey 2016 Yenca if you’re curious about the topics they listed (I’m sure they’d appreciate it if I asked you to excuse some of their spelling errors…!)

I’ll be * very* curious to ask these questions of my Algebra 1 students post-EOC. As far as graphing topics in Grade 8 curriculum, we deeply explore concepts of slope/rate of change/unit rate and proportional versus non-proportional linear relationships. We only utilize slope-intercept form of linear functions, and we only solve linear systems by graphing. Grade 8 math is still somewhat of a sampler course – we do some number stuff, some geometry stuff, some algebra stuff, some data stuff, and some financial stuff. There are a LOT more topics in Algebra 1 for which Desmos is an IDEAL tool. I really think this graph will be quite different for Algebra 1 students… we’ll see!

Check back in May once we’ve conquered the entire Algebra 1 curriculum.

Just read your last paragraph and totally agree. My Algebra I students detest using the TI. Most just don’t have the patience. Some are genuinely curious and followed my verbal and written instructions when I showed them how to input data points, and plot a LSRL or least squares regression line.

Then when you do it in desmos by pressing y1 ~ mx1+b they are instantly converted.

My math 8 students use the calculators a little bit. We’ve been exploring scientific notation with them to confirm their answer when they figure out how to multiply the factors then the power numbers. It’s pretty cool to see them figure what 1.2E8 though some thought it was 1.2^8.

I honestly find my students using them as keyboards to type off task messages more often than not. One student even found a preprogrammed game in in one of them from years past. I want them to use it as a tool, not a distraction which is going to take some discussions about what operations do you need a calculator on and why it’s ok to verify answers with after showing work.

My 8th graders will be taking the SBAC out here in California so there’s a built in calculator on that. They will be taking the old STAR or CST test for Science though.

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