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Topic: Role of MathDrag'n program in education


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Subject:   RE: Role of MathDrag'n program in education
Author: Mathman
Date: Oct 26 2004
On Oct 26 2004, Haertchen wrote:
> I have developed a rudimentary program that allows the user to
> manipulate algebra through drag-and-drop.  (It is available for
> download at equation.sourceforge.net.)  While I am interested in
> getting help working on this program (it is far too big for me to do
> alone) I am more interested here in whether it would be a useful
> educational tool, and if so what it would be useful for.  Note that
> I designed it for use by a technical audience, but at the current
> stage of developement, that is hardly noticable.

I am not certain
> whether this program would be a good thing to give to students.
> While I am fairly certain that really using it effectively requires
> the user to understand algebra already, it seems to me that students
> could use it to be lazy rather than productive.  On the other hand,
> I don't know whether teachers would use it for anything.  That's why
> I'm here.  Any comments on these issues would be greatly
> appreciated.

In its current state, MathDrag'n is distributed as
> an executable jar file, which means that if you have the 1.4.2 jre
> installed (available from Sun at
> http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.4.2/download.html ), you should be able to
> run it by double-clicking it.

Manipulative algebra programs for higher mathematics are useful, but for
learning stepwise processes, I'd seriously doubt the value.  In fact such a
program might be, as you suggest yourself, a deterrent to active thought.  So
far as being useful for the teacher, the teacher is supposedly already learned
in his/her profession, and really should not need such a device.  There are
already some VERY powerful symbolic algebra programs available, and they usually
need the effort of a team of expert mathematician/programmers.  It's a huge
undertaking, and if sucessful, of benefit usually to those who are already
fairly accomplished in the field.  That includes senior students.

It's one of those "good idea at the time" sort of things.  One possible use I
could think of, but barely, would be for a student to use it *after* having made
a reasonable perosnal attempt, and as a check to his work.  However, knowing the
general attitude of the majority, I'd suspect that you would be more correct in
your assumption that such a tool would be one for the lazy, who would then lose,
not having gained their rightful education through their own personal
effort.

I've already seen one such finished program, and had to discount it as being of
little additional value.  Sorry, I can't recall the name since it was some time
back.

David.

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