Electronic Proceedings of the Seventh Annual International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics

Orlando, Florida, November 17-20, 1994

Paper P012

NEWTON: A Computational Environment for Exploring Mathematics

Edmund A. Lamagna

University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881

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While symbolic algebra systems present new opportunities for teaching and learning mathematics, the available software has often been difficult for students to use. We have developed a unique computational environment called NEWTON that is tailored for novice users studying introductory calculus. NEWTON runs on Macintosh computers and consists of a user-friendly interface to Maple, supplemented by an extensive library of our own Maple code. Students, however, do not interact with Maple directly and need know nothing of Maple's syntax and command structure.

Students using NEWTON can examine interactively symbolic, numerical, and graphical representations of mathematical objects. The system features an easy-to-use mathematics editor, selection of commands from menus, and special dialogs to illustrate important computational techniques. Worksheets can contain a mixture of formulas, text, and graphs, thereby providing support for authoring interactive electronic documents. NEWTON has been used to teach numerical analysis, as well as both semesters of introductory calculus, with the aid of electronic documents.

This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grants USE-8814017, USE-8953939, DMS-9052242, and DUE-9352839.

Keyword(s): computer algebra systems, Maple, calculus