Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The aftermath of calculator use in college classrooms

Date:
November 12, 2012
Source:
University of Pittsburgh
Summary:
Math instructors promoting calculator usage in college classrooms may want to rethink their teaching strategies, experts say. They have proposed the need for further research regarding calculators' role in the classroom after conducting a limited study with undergraduate engineering students.

Math instructors promoting calculator usage in college classrooms may want to rethink their teaching strategies, says Samuel King, postdoctoral student in the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research & Development Center. King has proposed the need for further research regarding calculators' role in the classroom after conducting a limited study with undergraduate engineering students published in the British Journal of Educational Technology.

"We really can't assume that calculators are helping students," said King. "The goal is to understand the core concepts during the lecture. What we found is that use of calculators isn't necessarily helping in that regard."

Together with Carol Robinson, coauthor and director of the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University in England, King examined whether the inherent characteristics of the mathematics questions presented to students facilitated a deep or surface approach to learning. Using a limited sample size, they interviewed 10 second-year undergraduate students enrolled in a competitive engineering program. The students were given a number of mathematical questions related to sine waves -- a mathematical function that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation -- and were allowed to use calculators to answer them. More than half of the students adopted the option of using the calculators to solve the problem.

"Instead of being able to accurately represent or visualize a sine wave, these students adopted a trial-and-error method by entering values into a calculator to determine which of the four answers provided was correct," said King. "It was apparent that the students who adopted this approach had limited understanding of the concept, as none of them attempted to sketch the sine wave after they worked out one or two values."

After completing the problems, the students were interviewed about their process. A student who had used a calculator noted that she struggled with the answer because she couldn't remember the "rules" regarding sine and it was "easier" to use a calculator. In contrast, a student who did not use a calculator was asked why someone might have a problem answering this question. The student said he didn't see a reason for a problem. However, he noted that one may have trouble visualizing a sine wave if he/she is told not to use a calculator.

"The limited evidence we collected about the largely procedural use of calculators as a substitute for the mathematical thinking presented indicates that there might be a need to rethink how and when calculators may be used in classes -- especially at the undergraduate level," said King. "Are these tools really helping to prepare students or are the students using the tools as a way to bypass information that is difficult to understand? Our evidence suggests the latter, and we encourage more research be done in this area."

King also suggests that relevant research should be done investigating the correlation between how and why students use calculators to evaluate the types of learning approaches that students adopt toward problem solving in mathematics.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pittsburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Samuel King, Carol Robinson. Do undergraduate students view calculator usage as a proxy for learning with understanding? British Journal of Educational Technology, 2012; 43 (3): E90 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01289.x

Cite This Page:

University of Pittsburgh. "The aftermath of calculator use in college classrooms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121112171430.htm>.
University of Pittsburgh. (2012, November 12). The aftermath of calculator use in college classrooms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121112171430.htm
University of Pittsburgh. "The aftermath of calculator use in college classrooms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121112171430.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Google's Self-Driving Car Still Has Many Flaws

Google's Self-Driving Car Still Has Many Flaws

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) You've seen a lot of Google's self-driving car, but that doesn't mean it's coming soon. A new report says the vehicle is nowhere near road ready. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple's Rumored iWatch Could Cost $400

Apple's Rumored iWatch Could Cost $400

Newsy (Aug. 31, 2014) Apple is expected to charge a premium for its still-rumored wearable device. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazon Chases Netflix And HBO With Five New Pilots

Amazon Chases Netflix And HBO With Five New Pilots

Newsy (Aug. 31, 2014) Amazon has released another batch of five pilots, allowing viewers to vote on which shows will get full seasons on the company's streaming service. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple Wants Your iPhone To Become Your Wallet

Apple Wants Your iPhone To Become Your Wallet

Newsy (Aug. 31, 2014) Apple might soon announce a feature that would allow iPhones to act as a credit card when making payments in physical stores. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins