The Graphing Calculator and the ACT

KCTM to the Rescue

Applying for and receiving a KCTM Classroom Teacher Support Grant for the 2016-17 school year was an absolutely wonderful experience. I have to state that I have received grants from other institutions in the past where I have had to spend countless hours on the application and had to go through tons of red tape to actually spend the money. KCTM makes this grant application an extremely simple process that I whole heartedly recommend. It was not only an easy application process but it was also nearly effortless to spend and receive the money.

The reason I applied for the grant was to purchase graphing calculators for students to use on the ACT. As a result of colleges and universities depending so heavily on ACT scores to determine scholarships for our students it is extremely important for those planning to attend a college or university to do exceptionally well on the ACT. It is also pertinent to our Kentucky high schools that students do well since a portion of their accountability score comes from student ACT scores. The math section of the ACT is 60 questions to be completed in 60 minutes. Obviously, this means time is a major factor in a student’s ability to score well. Since the ACT allows students to use a graphing calculator on the math section there are many questions that become simple and quick when the calculator is used but are quite labor intensive and time consuming otherwise. Thus, as math teachers are undoubtedly aware, taking the ACT without a graphing calculator puts a student at a stark disadvantage. The graphing calculator can play a role in vastly improving a student’s score. It is, therefore, imperative that teachers and schools take on the responsibility of teaching students how to use the graphing calculator. That being said, the calculators are unfortunately out of reach for some students since they are very expensive. My goal was to establish a way for students to have access to the calculators while preparing for and taking the ACT.

I, along with the other teachers in our math department at Bardstown High School, hold ACT math prep study sessions each year for our students where students learn how to analyze ACT practice questions in order to learn when and how to use a graphing calculator. For the past several years I have also worked through our local public library to offer the ACT math prep classes for all students in our area. Each session focuses on just a few skills and lasts approximately an hour. Twenty to thirty minutes is typically spent analyzing questions to determine an appropriate strategy to use to solve each problem. The calculator method is then introduced and taught to the participants. The sessions conclude with providing the students with extra problems to practice the skills.

Unfortunately, many students were coming to the sessions without graphing calculators. After students attended the sessions and realized the difference the graphing calculator could make in their score they or their parents came to me asking for assistance. I felt completely at a loss because I did not have a solution for them. KCTM to the rescue. After seeing, applying for, and receiving this grant I was able to offer students and parents a solution. I purchased calculators for the students to borrow. I contacted Justin Stoecker the founder and CEO of the company SellCalculators.com and he worked with me and allowed me to purchase 16 calculators for my $1000 (these calculators typically run $100 each). The Nelson County Public Library (NCPL) was more than willing to step up and handle the loaning of the calculators. I simply engraved them with NCPL and a number and the library offers the calculators for check out just like a library book. It has worked amazingly well; from February to June the calculators have been checked out over 50 times.

Thank you KCTM!

Julie Caldwell

Bardstown High School