Assessment in the presence of graphic calculators

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of Education




Forster, P., Mueller, U., Malone, J., & Haimes, D. (2003). Assessment in the presence of graphic calculators. In Proceedings of the Third Conference on Science, Mathematics and Technology Education: Making science, mathematics and technology education accessible to all. Perth, Australia: Key Centre for School Science and Mathematics, Curtin University.


This paper reports on the opportunities and requirements to use graphics calculators in assessment in a Year 12 Applicable Mathematics course that is preparation for university entrance. Assessment items were collected over one year from eight schools and comprised tests, examinations and investigations. The latter are known locally as 'extended pieces of work' (EPWs). We have reported elsewhere our analyses of the extent and general nature of calculator use, in the tests and examinations (Malone, Haimes, Forster & Mueller, 2002) and in the EPWs (Forster, Mueller, Hain1es, & Malone, 2003). This paper gives a detailed account of the opportunities for use of graphics calculators in questions relating to the component of the course titled 'Random variables and their distributions' the syllabus for Applicable Mathematics (Curriculum Council, 2000) specifies the study of discrete random variables as functions on a finite set of outcomes, Bernoulli trials, the binomial distribution and the Poisson random variable. Concepts of continuous random variables and their probability functions are also included. Students are expected to calculate and use probabilities associated with uniform, exponential and normal random variables and be able to use the normal approximation to the binomial and the Poisson distributions. Utilisation of the calculators in the assessment items on random variables that we collected entailed solution of equations and evaluation of integrals associated with the various distributions, and simulation and analysis of large data sets. The scope of assessment questions in the component was broadened because of the inclusion of the calculators, particularly in the EPWs: students could use the technology for processing which otherwise would have been unacceptably tedious or inaccessible.

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