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Understanding what you are doing: A new angle on CAS?

Bradley, J., Kemp, M. and Kissane, B. (2003) Understanding what you are doing: A new angle on CAS? In: 4th Southern Hemisphere Symposium on Undergraduate Mathematics Teaching, 23 - 27 November 2003, Queenstown, New Zealand pp. 50-57.

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Powerful Computer Algebra Systems (CAS) are often used only with reluctance in early undergraduate mathematics teaching, partly because of concerns that they may not encourage students to understand what they are doing. In this exploratory study, a version of a CAS that has been designed for secondary school students was used, with a view to considering the value of this sort of student learning support for first year undergraduate students enrolled in degree programs other than mathematics. Workshops were designed to help students understand aspects of elementary symbolic manipulation, through the use of the Algebra mode of an algebraic calculator, the Casio Algebra FX 2.0. The Algebra mode of this calculator allows a user to undertake elementary algebraic manipulation, routinely providing all intermediate results, in contrast to more powerful CAS software, which usually provides simplified results only. The students were volunteers from an introductory level unit, designed to provide a bridge between school and university studies of mathematics and with a focus on algebra and calculus. The two structured workshop sessions focussed respectively on the solution of linear equations and on relationships between factorising and expanding; attention focussed on using the calculators as personal learning devices. Following the workshops, structured interviews were used to systematically record student reactions to the experience. As a result of the study, the paper offers advice on the merits of using algebraic calculators in this sort of way.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Publisher: International Delta Steering Committee
Conference Website:
Notes: Appears In: Proceedings of the DELTA 03 conference
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