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A double-edged sword: Use of computer algebra systems in first-year Engineering Mathematics and Mechanics courses


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Many secondary-level mathematics students have experience with graphical calculators from high school. For the purposes of this paper we define graphical calculators as those able to perform rudimentary symbolic manipulation and solve complicated equations requiring very modest user knowledge. The use of more advanced computer algebra systems e.g. Maple, Mathematica, Mathcad, Matlab/MuPad is becoming more prevalent in tertiary-level courses. This paper explores our students’ experience using one such system (MuPad) in first-year tertiary Engineering Mathematics and Mechanics courses. The effectiveness of graphical calculators and computer algebra systems in mathematical pedagogy has been investigated by a multitude of educational researchers (e.g. Ravaglia et al. 1998). Most of these studies found very small or no correlation between student use of graphical calculators or exposure to computer algebra systems with future achievement in mathematics courses (Buteau et al. 2010). In this paper we focus instead on students’ attitude towards a more advanced standalone computer algebra system (MuPad), and whether students’ inclination to use the system is indicative of their mathematical understanding. Paper describing some preliminary research into use of computer algebra systems for teaching engineering mathematics.

Item Type: Paper presented at a conference, workshop or other event, and published in the proceedings
Uncontrolled Keywords: Teaching, Engineering, Computer algebra systems, mathematics
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Q Science > QA Mathematics
Divisions: Schools > Centre for Engineering and Industrial Design
Depositing User: Jai Khanna
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2021 21:00
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 09:12

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