David Pountney, Carl Leinbach and Terence Etchells
The ever-increasing power and ease of access of computer technology continues to have a significant impact on the learning, teaching and assessment of mathematics throughout higher education establishments worldwide. In this chapter we look particularly at the impact of computer algebra systems, by which we mean software systems that can perform symbolic as well as numerical manipulations and which include graphical display capabilities. Examples include Mathematica, Maple, Macsyma and DERIVE, and some of these systems are available not only on PCs but also on hand-held 'super calculators' such as theTI-92 plus and theTI-89. In this chapter, DERIVE is used to illustrate the issues raised, but these issues are generic in nature and the 'translation' to other systems is straightforward.
Much has been spoken and written about the use of a computer algebra system (CAS) in learning and teaching over the last two decades or so (see, for example, International Congress for Mathematics Education (ICME) Proceedings since 1984, and journals such as the International Journal of Computer Algebra in Mathematics Education (IJCAME) among others). Yet the effective use of a CAS in learning and teaching still appears to be a topic giving rise to a wide variety of views among mathematics educators and practitioners. Certainly, the use of calculator technology has been blamed for 'the mathematics problem in society' and this bad press has contributed to the debate that the use of technology such as a CAS may be linked to falling mathematical standards among graduates.