Grant increases district math technology

By Nicole Cooke

December 25, 2013

Math class at Smith-Cotton Junior High and High School just got a little more interesting thanks to a grant from the Sedalia School District Foundation.

SCJH ninth grade math teachers Sarah Eisenmenger and Lensie Means applied for a $2,000 grant last spring from SSDF to buy a classroom set of graphing calculators, as none of the schools in the district had any. They spent a lot of time researching the specific calculators and how they would benefit the classroom, trying to justify the money they were asking for. They received the grant this summer, and the SCJH PTA chipped in $1,000. Once administration heard about their efforts, the school added some more money to the total.

Soon, what had started out as enough calculators for about 30 SCJH students turned into more than 200 graphing calculators for both SCJH and SCHS.

“We were just so passionate about it,” Eisenmenger said. “We researched the cost and which type was best. The principal and other instructors saw our passion. We did all the leg work, finding exactly what we wanted. We had ownership of this. We feel we made the right decision.”

The district purchased the Texas Instruments Inspire graphing calculator, which comes programmed with several types of software, including algebra and geometry. The teachers also have software that projects the calculator onto the SMART board so the students can follow along. Means said they have labs with step by step instructions that teach kids math skills, as well as how to follow directions and increased reading skills.

“(The students) are excited about the new calculators, and they’re pretty proficient,” Means said. “The kids will show us stuff they’ve figured out that we haven’t found yet. They’re feeding off our excitement. We fought to get these calculators.”

The students aren’t the only ones who are learning about the new technology. District math teachers had two days of professional development this summer, and will get more training this spring. When it came to which calculator to purchase, the original idea was to purchase an older version most teachers were familiar with, but Means and Eisenmenger decided to purchase the latest version.

“We decided that getting the best, most recent technology would be the best for our students,” Eisenmenger said.

The new technology will level the playing field in terms of state testing. Graphing calculators are allowed on state tests, but Sedalia 200 students have only been using a pencil and paper to work out their problems. Using their new tool will allow them to be faster and more efficient.

“It’s totally changed how we do things,” Eisenmenger said. “They can use them on the ACT test as well. Our kids really just needed this technology in their hands.”