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Teaching Problem Solving in Algebra using the Graphing Calculator

The purpose of this mini-course is to show participants how to solve common core algebra problems using the graphing calculator (TI-84 plus). Students often do not know how to properly use the graphing calculator as a tool to help them solve problems on the common core Algebra I exam. There are multiple ways to solve common core algebra problems, and the graphing calculator can be a helpful tool in many different ways. Students need to know how to use the graphing calculator and be able to identify which problems can be solved using the graphing calculator in order to be more successful in common core algebra. This topic incorporates 21st century skills such as problem solving and using technology to solve problems.

Learning Outcomes

Participants will be able to:

  • Identify different ways to solve common core algebra problems.
  • Determine which common core algebra problems can be solved using a graphing calculator.
  • Implement graphing calculator skills to solve common core algebra problems.
  • Describe the steps to solving a common core algebra problem using the graphing calculator.
  • Construct algebra lesson plans incorporating the graphing calculator.

Needs Assessment


Technology is a significant part of the 21st century world and how people solve problems. Graphing calculators are a technological tool that are very useful in solving algebra problems. Applying technology to solve math problems is a 21st century skill that is often underused. Technology is only useful for problem solving if people know how to use and apply it properly. Math teachers either do not know how to teach graphing calculator skills because they did not learn algebra using one, or they teach using the graphing calculator but would like to learn more about applying the graphing calculator to different types of problems in different ways. My solution to this problem is to create a mini course that help participants teach students problem solving skills in algebra using a graphing calculator.

Gather Information:

I have observed many students who do not know how to use the graphing calculator and all its capabilities to help them solve algebra problems. These students are those who have failed the Common Core Algebra I Regents Exam multiple times. I conducted 2 different surveys at Binghamton High School, one for teachers and one for students, to find out if this was actually an instructional design problem. I was only able to give my teacher survey to 8 math teachers at Binghamton High School, and my student survey to 64 Binghamton High School students. 100 Binghamton High School students took the Common Core Algebra I Regents Exam in January 2016. Out of those 100 students only 17 passed. This 17% passing rate is most likely so low because majority of the students who take the January exam are students who have failed the exam one or more times. In June 2015 at Binghamton High School, the percentage of students passing was below 50 percent on the Common Core Algebra I Regents Exam. All of the information I have gathered is specific to Binghamton High School so I decided to do some research about test scores in New York state.


Teacher Survey Results

Student Survey Results

An article published in the New York Times in 2015 stated that "On the June 2015 Algebra I exam, which was supposed to align with the new Common Core curriculum, the percentage of students passing fell to 63 percent. In New York City, which has a concentration of poor and minority students, only 52 percent of students passed the 2015 exam."

Based on test scores, survey results, observations, and research I have concluded that there is a need for implementing better calculator instruction and application in the algebra classroom. Teachers and students have expressed that they would benefit from learning more about the graphing calculator and how to use it to solve common core algebra problems, which I believe would improve problem solving skills and standardized test scores.

Analysis of the Learner

It is important to consider differences in skills and familiarity with technology. Specifically with graphing calculators, teachers and students have different background knowledge and skills. This mini course is designed for teachers and students who are less familiar with the graphing calculator and how to apply graphing calculator skills to solving common core algebra problems. I teach in an urban school district where poverty is very prominent. Research shows that urban school districts with students living in poverty have lower math scores. Socioeconomic status affects how students learn, access to technology, and cultural background. I would like participants to consider their student population when designing lesson plans to incorporate the graphing calculator. Many students do not find a graphing calculator to be relevant or useful because it seems less modern than a cell phone or tablet, or because they do not own one. I would like this mini course to be helpful to participants who teach in urban high needs schools where algebra test scores are lowest.

Performance Objectives

  1. Select a past Common Core Algebra I Regents Exam and identify which questions can be solved using a graphing calculator.
  2. Create a lesson plan for a chosen algebra topic incorporating the graphing calculator skills explored in the mini course.
  3. Reflect on how you currently use a graphing calculator to teach algebra, and how you will implement the graphing calculator in the future.

Task Analysis

Module 1:




Module 2:




Module 3:




Curriculum Map

References and Resources

Taylor, Kate. "Algebra Scores Prompt Second Look at Revamped Regents Exams." The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.


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Teaching Problem Solving in Algebra using the Graphing Calculator