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Topic: Mathematica in Secondary Education


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Subject:   Mathematica in Secondary Education
Author: Craig
Date: Feb 23 2005
This posting is a bit like the "New Classroom" posting, but along a different
line.

Mathematica is a very powerful, and somewhat expensive, tool for doing great
exploratory mathematics and science, and for solving a variety of tough
problems.  What if the cost weren't a factor?  What if it could be ubiquitous,
almost (but not quite) like the graphing calculators?  How would having such a
powerful tool change how and/or what math is taught?  What would you like to do
with such a tool?  If you've never worked with Mathematica, you can liken it to
almost any computer algebra system (but with many additional capabilities).

When similar questions were asked about the graphing calculator twenty years ago
(was it that long?), there was a wide spectrum of responses; I doubt that either
extreme of optimism or pessimism has been realized, but I firmly believe that
the technology engendered a change in both pedagogy and curriculum.
Visualization became much more integral to math instruction.

Would "unleashing" Mathematica have such an impact?  I doubt that improvements
to visualization alone would make a Mathematica explosion worthwhile--so many
specialized (and less expensive) packages, in addition to the graphing
calculators, do a pretty good job.  What about in understanding the mathematics
underlying visualization, or the problem solving aspects?  Mathematica appears
to be a great tool for encouraging "what if" programming (and, once a student
[or even teacher] overcomes a small syntactic hurdle, Mathematica programming is
relatively straightforward).

I look forward to any comments, daydreams, or other thoughts...

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