Three creative ways to use TI-Navigator

The Texas Instruments Navigator system is designed to connect a classroom of graphing calculators to a computer …

… allowing for classroom activities like having all the students try to match a picture with a linear graph.

(The students are trying to connect a balloon from the lower left [obscured in the picture] to a balloon on the upper right.)

I’ve had a Navigator system for several years, and some activities can be too much hassle (many cords, connections, and opportunity for tech error) for too little gain. However, I have come up with three activities that I find worth the effort:

1. Number-change experiments

To make the picture below, I first had students send sin(x) and changed every student to a distinct color. I then asked them to pick a random number from 0.1 to 1.9 and resend their graph with the number inserted in front (picking 1.5 would make the graph 1.5sin(x)).

This sort of experimentation can be done with any function and has (from my experience) been one of the starkest ways to teach the influence of various coefficients.

2. Modeling data

With Navigator it’s possible to take a collected set of data (below, the distance of a pendulum tracked via motion detector) and put it on the screen. The students can then do modeling right on the screen.

Competition and cooperation kick in: competition where students try to outdo each other’s graphs, and cooperation when the more puzzled students ask someone who got close “how did you do that?”

3. Coordinate Point Musical Chairs

Navigator includes a feature where students can control an individual point on the screen.

(When first turning this mode on, students will squeal — I am not exaggerating — in delight as they chace each other around the screen.)

There’s multiple options for activities, but Coordinate Point Musical Chairs has been the most popular. The rules:

1. Write a coordinate point, like (3,4), (-2 – 3, -1 + 4) or (log_2 4, sides on a heptagon) and have students go to it.
2. After a set time, pause Navigator. If more than 10 students are still in (that is, when mousing over with the cursor one can’t see all the names) then everyone is still alive.
3. Continue writing coordinate points until the number of students who found the answer drops to <10. Then write the names of the survivors. (The remaining students keep playing, but they do not get an opportunity for Grand Champion of that game.)
4. On subsequent rounds, as students miss reaching the correct point cross them off the list.
5. The sole survivor is the Grand Champion.


In general, I admit to some cynicism about graphing calculators, which occupy a strange corner of the edtech market. The equipment is cumbersome to set up . . . Can anyone explain to me how graphing calculators are going to avoid getting crushed in the tightening vise between cell phones and netbooks?

— Dan Mayer writing on Asilomar #5: What Can We Do With This?

I don’t want to bet on the exact date of the apocalypse, but I wager graphing calculators won’t be with us much longer. However, in The Future ™ all the above activities ought to transplant to a class where everyone is networked with holographic tablets.

8 Responses

  1. Love the idea to use the entire class to demonstrate transformations. I teach the topic to 9th graders and will definitely be working out lessons on this for next fall.

    Oh, and on the demise of graphing calculators, see

    Great ideas!

  2. Nice job. thank you for submitting this to the Mathematics and Multimedia blog carnival. S

  3. Graphing calculators will be with us for a while, since they are now required for some standardized exams. Nothing like standardized exams for freezing technology.

    “You are not permitted to use these items on the AP Calculus Exams: nongraphing scientific calculators, portable and handheld computers, laptops, electronic writing pads, pocket organizers.”

    “Additionally, you cannot use any graphing calculator models with these features or capabilities: QWERTY (typewriter-like) keypad as part of hardware or software (e.g., TI-92 Plus, Voyage 200); pen-input, stylus or touch-screen (e.g., PalmPilot, personal digital assistant, Casio ClassPad); wireless or Bluetooth capabilities; paper tapes; talk or make noise; require an electrical outlet; have cell phone, audio, or video recording capability; can access the Internet; or camera or scanning capability. Also, the use of hardware peripherals with an approved calculator is prohibited.”

    • Good point. To be fair, the cheating issue gets especially tricky with computer technology on official tests. Given what’s out there I would say graphing calculators are probably the best option at the moment.

      I don’t think things will stay that way, though.

  4. […] Dyer shares some excellent ideas to remedy the hassles of using the TI-Navigator in his article Three creative ways to use TI navigator in his blog The Number […]

  5. Anyone using a TI calculator should read (and share with students) the following xkcd cartoon:

  6. […] Three creative ways to use TI-Navigator Posted on May 5, 2010 by Jason Dyer […]

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