Computer Technology and Discovery Learning
in Post-Calculus Classes

Mary Scherer,
Janet Beery, and
Allen Killpatrick

Mathematics Department
University of Redlands
1200 E. Colton Avenue
Redlands, California 92373-0999

scherer@uor.edu,
beery@uor.edu,
and killpatr@uor.edu

Grant Number: DUE: 9551132

The University of Redlands began using computers in calculus courses in Fall, 1990. This followed two years of discussions concerning the method of incorporating technology into our mathematics classrooms and the technological media we felt would be most appropriate for our students, our budget, and our physical facilities.

Since Fall, 1992, we have used Calculus in Context, the product of the Five College Calculus Project in our first-semester calculus classes. Assignments emphasize using the computer as a computational, graphing and exploratory tool. An NSF-ILI grant (DUE 9351491) provided funding for two calculus classroom laboratories, where all of our calculus classes now meet.

The success of the calculus program led us to consider how to modify our pre-calculus and upper division courses to include more discovery learning and group work. We developed examples in which computers could be used appropriately for exploring numerical and graphical patterns that would lead students to discover theoretical concepts for themselves. A second NSF-ILI grant (DUE 9551132) furnished a third classroom laboratory for use in courses such as pre-calculus, elementary statistics, probability, mathematical statistics, number theory, college geometry, numerical analysis, differential equations, complex analysis, and operations research.

A wide range of software is used in mathematics courses at Redlands. Some classes use small graphing packages and simple programs in TrueBASIC; others use specialized software like Geometer's Sketchpad, Stella, or f(z). We have found that our students adapt easily to the use of several small packages provided that there is minimal overhead in learning to use them. We also use powerful, multi-use computer algebra systems like MATLAB and Maple to a limited extent. We introduce Maple to our students gradually over several semesters, beginning with the second semester of calculus. Our differential equations course uses a CD-ROM distributed by Addison Wesley Interactive.

A packet of materials prepared as a handout for this poster session will include examples of in-class activities and homework assignments that use the computer. We will also bring a Macintosh Powerbook to demonstrate some of the computer activities used in our courses.


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