Home > Math News Archive Detail

<< Prev 1/27/2013 Next >>

Computer Reflections...Plus!

Computers have now been available for a considerable length of time. For example, I first used a microcomputer as part of a classroom lesson in 1971. And, their connections to doing, learning, and teaching mathematics are well known...or are they?

Perhaps it is time to re-reflect on the impact that computers have had, and can have, on how mathematics is learned in school settings. Part of the problem is how to actually measure this impact....and when.

A good reflecting schema was developed by a team of two-year college mathematics teachers. Their twelve "goals for impact" are:

  1. To enhance student understanding of mathematical topics
  2. To provide an invaluable tool for solving more varied, complex, and realistic applications
  3. To introduce an exciting new dimension into mathematical ideas
  4. To provide skill and reinforcement
  5. To enhance geometric insight via graphics
  6. To encourage an experimental approach to discover mathematical ideas
  7. To make higher level mathematical concepts accessible to undergraduate students
  8. To promote the development of logical thinking skills
  9. To promote the importance of statistical analysis of data
  10. To promote probabilistic intuition via simulations
  11. To promote an appreciation of the role of approximation in mathematics
  12. To prepare students to compute effectively throughout their eventual careers
Certainly, these reasons could be used to motivate faculty/student discussions of what is being done and what could be done. BUT, this list of reasons needs to perhaps be updated for multiple reasons. For example, the above reflection guidelines were prepared in 1989, thus:
  • Much has changed since then as to access to computers and software
  • Given this predates the advent of the TI-81 graphing calculator, the whole idea of a using graphing calculators needs to be re-considered
  • And, now more modern technologies are available...interactive phones, tablets, holographic options, etc.
Yet, the posed reflection options are still relevant, but unless we reflect on them to prompt action, they are of no value.

Source: Adapted from Gordon et al's article in The AMATYC Review, Spring 1989