Rethinking Graphing Calculators: 7 Engaging Classroom Activities

Seven cool ways to use graphing calculators in the classroom.

When you were in high school, you may have used your graphing calculator to spell out secret messages to your best friend. But now, graphing calculators have become so advanced that teachers and kids can use them as calculators, computers and engaging classroom tools all wrapped up into one. Here are seven engaging graphing calculator activities that teachers can use to challenge students and help them to make real-world connections that lead to deeper understanding in math and science.

1. Play dominoes.


E.Z. Moreldo, a Portland, Oregon, algebra teacher, has her pre-calc and Algebra 2 students studying logarithm properties use their graphing calculators to solve the problems on preprinted domino cards. Then they use their solutions to play any standard domino game.
Get the lesson.

2. Have a game of War.


Lisa Henry, high school algebra teacher from Youngstown, Ohio, has been teaching for 24 years and has her students play the card game War using the preprinted logarithm cards in this lesson.
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3. Create a Function Family Album.


Megan Hayes-Golding,  freshman physics teacher from Atlanta, Georgia, has her students create a math-based family tree by interpreting the characteristics of functions using graphs, tables and simple algebraic techniques.
Get the lesson.

4. Make a Birthday Baseball Parabola.


Jessica Rudolph,  third-year high school math teacher from Columbus, Ohio, has a topsy-turvy, unexpected lesson that takes her pre-calc students from their own birthdays to the quadratic equation to—wait for it—baseball statistics.
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5. Design a water park.



Jessica Rudolph also taps into her geometry students’ inner architects with an involved graphing project that gives her kids the ability to design their own water park from a bird’s-eye view.
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6. Create an original work of art.


Teachers everywhere (seriously, we found dozens!) are using art and graphing calculators to create challenging, unexpected and totally cool end-of-unit projects.
Here are three of our favorite ideas for combining art, math and graphic calculators:
Get lesson 1- Texas.
Get lesson 2- Pieces.
Get lesson 3- Piecewise

7. Explore paper folding, M&M’s and the African black rhino population …


Say what? What could these three things possibly have in common? Well, all three of these are lessons that involve students collecting data, creating scatter plots and determining algebraic models (using graphing calculators, of course) that represent their functions.
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8. Plant a rose garden!


Create a beautiful rose one petal at a time while teaching students about transformations in the plane, including translations and reflections. The twist? Using an algebraic approach with their graphing calculators instead of a geometric approach.
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Looking for more ideas? Check out these links.

HP Graphing Calculator Educational Resources

6 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With a Graphing Calculator