Session S12 (Sunday, 2pm, Thomas 218)

P74: Symbolic mathematics software as the next calculator

Jonathan Gutow (University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, USA)

Calculators have improved the speed, reproducibly and accuracy of arithmetic.  This has allowed instructors to use more realistic exercises in class and on exams.  However calculators sometimes stifle learning because of confusion about what the calculators do or how to use them.  Our students are beginning to use even more sophisticated tools in the form of symbolic mathematics software.  Commercial packages like MathCad, Mathematica and Maple have been available for a while, but there are now good open-source and free packages.  K-12 math instructors are beginning to adopt some of this software; thus many of our college students are or soon will be familiar with these tools.  I will present some uses I have made of the Sage math package in upper-level courses and show some capabilities that might have impacts at the introductory level.  As with calculators, I believe adoption of these tools presents both opportunities and problems.

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