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

Houston, Texas, November 16-19, 1995

Paper C033

Reducing Tedium in Teaching and Learning

Therese Shelton

Dept. of Mathematics and Computer Science
Southwestern University
Georgetown, TX 78627
Phone: (512) 863-1489
Fax: (512) 863-5788

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Quite a few students get so lost in the details of lengthy calculations that they cease trying or fail to see the main point. Others become too frustrated at the sensitivity to small errors. We will consider at least partial fractions decomposition, Gauss elimination, matrix inversion, solving for eigenvalue/eigenvector pairs, and infinite series solutions to differential equations. Some techniques will be presented using a spreadsheet such as Excel which can be used even in classes for non-majors. Other techniques will involve the computer algebra system Mathematica. Faculty can use these techniques as a teaching/grading tool to check partial correctness of student answers and to help students trace their mistakes. Students can be taught to perform calculations in such a way that they do not rely solely on the technology yet develop the determination and mathematical maturity needed to tackle these problems unaided.

Keyword(s): linear algebra, spreadsheets, Mathematica