On 4/25/2013 6:46 AM, Murray Eisenberg wrote: > On Apr 25, 2013, at 2:51 AM, Richard Fateman <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: > >> I think the comparisons are generally with control groups that were being taught >> the same material but without "benefit" of computers. It >> seems to me that comparing the two groups of students on their ability >> to write programs would not be pertinent to the question of whether the >> two groups learned (say) calculus equally well." > If you think that what I'm suggesting is to "write programs" then you simply don't understand the issues here. It's learning mathematical ideas vs. learning to do (largely mindless) mechanical manipulations of symbols. > I was being somewhat facetious in describing the other benefits of introducing computers as learning to write programs. Certainly there is a prospect that students would learn, as a consequence of the computer-related stuff to have a higher appreciation of (say) algorithmic / procedural thought processes, even "ideas" (however defined by you) vs rote repetition. I am not aware of any peer-reviewed research papers validating such a hypothesis. Occasional anecdotes notwithstanding.
You might or might not recall that the standard methods in calculus courses (and I suspect in physics/ etc courses) consist largely in teaching mindless mechanical manipulations. Worse, they are taught by repeated examples, not as fixed algorithms by which any of the problems can be done by following those algorithms. Then students are graded on their ability to perform the mindless manipulations.
It is my own cynical view that the real value in compulsory calculus is that it is mighty tough to do those manipulations without a firm grasp of the (mindless) manipulations of algebra and perhaps trigonometry. Therefore the calculus, which is itself vital to 10% of the students and useless to 90%, has the effect of reinforcing knowledge of algebra, which is somewhat more relevant to people. (e.g. financial matters...)
Perhaps somewhere there is a calculus course that does not depend on such an approach. One time I taught part of a calculus course at MIT (circa 1972) -- an added computer "lab" in which I explained the fundamentals of the Risch integration procedure to students in course 18.001, which was a more "applied" calculus. The students seemed to like that. The main instructional themes and senior faculty lecturers were unaffected by it. In that year, or so far as I know, in any future year.