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Discussion: Research Area
Topic: Virtual Manipulative in the Mathematics Classroom

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Subject:   RE: Virtual Manipulative in the Mathematics Classroom
Author: Mathman
Date: Oct 10 2006
On Oct 10 2006, Don Link wrote:

>A tool like Geometer's Sketchpad
> allows us to build our own virtual manipulatives that can be useful
> in middle school, high school, and college-level mathematics.

> guess our experiences are just worlds apart.

I am merely curious, so you do not need to reply.  However, I would be quite
interested in knowing what you do, precisely, with Geometer's Sketchpad that can
not be done with [or without] more traditional tools, except perhaps to have a
cleaner presentation [i mention one possibility myself lower down this page.]  I
have, and still do use a good CAD program for diagrams, GSP out of curiosity [it
IS useful if it shows some possible properties of a geometric structure not
readily visible otherwise], and some other odds and sods.  However, I have yet
to see just what, precisely [again], it does, at the school level at least, what
other ways and means do not.

I'm not knocking it from the point of view that it is a unique and useful
program, as are the CAD programs, but I don't think it does to the old geometry
set what a good CAD program has done for drafting programs.  Using that same
example, one of my former colleagues taught a wonderful drafting course in high
school.  He did use AutoCad, but before any student was allowed to be close to
the computer and that program, they had to show understanding and some mastery
of technique on the drafting table.  The results were outstanding, the move from
one to the other very smooth.

The point:  Much software is useful.  Not all software is useful.  Some more
traditional methods could stand improvement.  Not all traditional methods need
to be abandonned, or in fact need to be supplemented.  There should be no
argument.  Each teacher should use whatever is available at his or her
discretion.  I am grateful to see more and more useful tools available for that
discretionary purpose, and would have killed years back for a program to much
more clearly show 3D vectors and their interrelationships with each other and
basis vectors.  On the other hand, I've done some traditional pen and paper
proofs much more elegantly than some done by others using GSP, and have tutored
much more easily at times using the old tin box, rather than using GSP which had
already been used in the classroom ineffectively.  Teaching is not the tools,
but it's great to have the tools available.  However they should be recognised
as such, and not as some panacea, and at times merely a bandwagon.  It takes
care to recognise the difference sometimes.


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