In thinking about why information visualization is important and useful to students, as well as the ways in which certain technologies enhance the learning of students, I decided to investigate graphing calculator software and online manipulative representations.

My students often struggle to make connections between the graphical, the numerical and the algebraic. When I ask them to move from one form to another, for some reason they often don’t see that they are at all related. Perhaps it’s a function of the silos (strands) that we place mathematics curriculum into in elementary years, or perhaps it’s a lack of true understanding of the concepts. Texas Instruments graphing software allows students to emphasize connections between mathematical concepts (CTL, 2007) by seeing the dynamic changes that take place in all three forms of visualization of the data when you change a parameter in any one of the visualization forms. Their ability to see what happens when you change the function, or change a y-value in a table of values helps them to make connections and see the bigger picture. It tells a story about the mathematics that is facilitated by the use of technology.

In the United States in particular, there is hot debate about the use of CAS (Computer Algebra Systems) on standardized testing. There is an interesting commentary about the connection to standards and practices recognizing that the calculators should not replace student learning (Roschelle and Singleton, 2008), but rather supplement it. The fear is that students will offload the cognitive load onto the technology and be worse off for it. Zalman Usiskin, director of the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project delivered a thorough and thought provoking lecture on the ethics of CAS in mathematics education. He suggests that we not only should use CAS in educating our students, but we have somewhat of a moral imperative to do so. His argument is based on an interpretation of the NEA (National Education Association) Code of Ethics and is rather convincing. He goes on to argue that restricting our students from certain points of views and learning opportunities is unethical. As an extension, restricting our students from using and learning through CAS is therefore not an ethical practice according to the NEA.

By using the TI Nspire CAS handhelds and teacher software, I am able to engage my students in learning activities that are both math related, and relevant to their everyday lives. Using photos from around the school to determine if ramps or stairs are built to code or whether a skateboard park is safe is both engaging and authentic to students. Those tasks are possible without technology, but far more efficient and powerful when facilitated by the integration of graphing calculators in math class.

These arguments provide me with refreshing support of my pursuits to integrate technology into my teaching practice. A practice that I will endeavour to continue and grow in as I gain experience in the profession.

**References**

Center for Technology in Learning (2007), “Why should a teacher use technology in his or her classroom?” Research Note 8, Menlo Park, CA

Roschelle, J. & Singleton, C. (2008). Graphing Calculators: Enhancing math learning for all students. In J. Voogt & G. Knezek (Eds.) International Handbook of information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, Springer, 951-959

Usiskin, Z, (2012). The ethics of using computer algebra systems (CAS) in high school mathematics. University of Chicago School Mathematics Project. http://ucsmp.uchicago.edu/resources/conferences/2012-03-01/