Personal Experiences Teaching Inside
Gerald R. Rising
Inside Your Calculator
has been written as a book for the general reader. As one result of this, it
contains no exercises. The book may, however, serve as a text on which may be
based a variety of lecture series or courses for adults or students in secondary
schools and colleges.
I have taught just such a course, a three semester hour seminar
for undergraduate honors students at the University at Buffalo. Early versions
of the text chapters served as reading assignments, we explored in class extensions
of the text material , and I assigned rather demanding tasks appropriate to
these extremely bright students.
As an aside, I note that I was regularly surprised at how much
that we covered the students told me was "new" to them. Even some
of the content that is standard to the secondary school curriculum was not recognized
by many students. Their generous end-of-course evaluations indicated how much
they appreciated their new depth of understanding of the course topics.
Few teachers will have an opportunity to work with such exceptional
students and your instruction will have to reflect the quality and kind of audience
you will meet. I have found, however, that the content of various parts of this
text "works" with students of a wide range of ability. The key to
the presentation is your interpretation of the content.
Here, however, are some suggestions about teaching that should
apply to any course based on my experiences:
Today students have a wide range of programming ability, but you will find that remarkably few, even including those who have taken computer courses, are skilled at programming their calculator. Even students who have owned graphic calculators for some time will often never have written a program for their instrument. They will almost certainly have used the calculator's graphics capabilities, but their other use will have been restricted to carrying out calculations. For this reason you will be well advised to provide assistance in developing a few first programs.
I have provided a series of programming exercises, many of which I used in my course, that build from very simple to quite sophisticated tasks. I suggest that you assign longer range programming projects. (If you do not have your own preferred tasks, you can select or have your students select their project from some of those that appear on the list.) In doing so, I urge you to require your students to prepare a written report in support of their program. Such a report should include a description of what the program is doing and how it is doing it.
Some of the appendices of Inside Your Calculator also provide the basis for student projects.