Chris Drage discovers a wealth of data-logging options from Texas Instruments
TI InspireData-logging to explore real-world conceptsData-logging introduces learners to many fascinating real-world concepts in mathematics, providing interactive ways to visualise relationships and patterns, and express critical thinking. If a school has invested in Texas Instruments graphic calculators it makes good sense to extend their usage to include data-logging, thus providing real world connections relevant to both science and mathematics.

TI offers several ways to collect data with its graphing calculators. One popular option utilises the CBL 2 data-collection interface (approx £110). In this option, sensors connect to the interface, and the interface connects to the calculator.

CBL 2 is full-feature data-collection interface that supports a comprehensive range of Vernier sensors, which work with most of the TI graphing calculators. For science or maths departments, this interface provides most flexibility. What I like about the CBL 2 system is that you can start collecting data almost immediately.

First, transfer the built-in user program from the CBL 2 to your particular calculator with a single button push. Then run the program and plug in a sensor which is automatically identified to let you begin collecting data. With its BT-style telephone sockets, the CBL 2 is an affordable and easy-to-use data collection tool

I tested the CBL 2 with the TI-84 Plus (around £70) and it worked well. I believe that it will also interface with the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition. Since the CBL 2 is portable and battery powered, you can take it out of the classroom for experiments such as measuring accelerations on amusement rides or monitoring the temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH of a lake or stream. This requires the appropriate Vernier sensor, and with 40 to choose from there’s plenty of choice of scenarios to explore. In the classroom you can use the CBL 2 and a graphing calculator as a low-cost alternative to computers for collecting and analysing real-world data.

The Texas Instruments CBR 2 motion detector (around £65) comes with everything you need to connect to either the TI-84 Plus (including Silver Edition) or the TI-Nspire (around £75 – see review here). The CBR 2 has a BT telephone-style plug that connects it securely to the CBL 2.

You can explore the motion of a ball tossed in the air

With a measurement range of 15 cms to 6 metres, the CBR 2 can collect distance, velocity, and acceleration data while connected directly to a TI graphing calculator or TI-Nspire handheld, so you don't need a special data-collection interface. It features a very sensible design with a swivelling sensor head which reveals the necessary sensitivity setting switches and the toggling ‘trigger’ key which makes it ideal for such activities as exploring the motion of a ball tossed in the air or a vehicle on a ramp.

The sensitivity setting switches enable teachers  and students to customise settings to particular experiments. I particularly like the inclusion of a tripod threaded socket for very stable mounting, the USB port and cable provided for connections to other devices and the 43-page handbook which covers everything from getting started to technical and service information.

Teachers will welcome the inclusion of five student activities with the teacher’s notes, and student activity sheets which cover a range of linear and parabolic graphing scenarios. The CBR 2 is one of the least expensive and easiest means of collecting motion data in the maths or physics classroom. With the CBL 2 and the CBR 2 and a range of analogue sensors from Vernier, Texas Instruments has truly opened up the real-world data collection for users of their graphing calculators.

More information

NEWS: Aberdeenshire council has invested in class sets of TI-Nspire handhelds for its secondary schools to support STEM (science technology and mathematics) education, following a University of Aberdeen research project which found that the use of the resources helped pupils’ explorations. Free training is being provided for STEM work.

Westhill Academy principal teacher of maths Margaret Thompson says: ”Curriculum for Excellence recognises that attainment is related to engagement and motivation. Using the TI-Nspire has increased both and has led to deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.”

Research report into the use of the TI-Nspire in Scottish schools