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Re: if using Mathematica to solve an algebraic problem

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  • Subject: [mg109133] Re: if using Mathematica to solve an algebraic problem
  • From: Helen Read <hpr at>
  • Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2010 04:09:04 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <hpml5n$9nu$> <hppl95$m08$> <hputs2$lip$>

On 4/12/2010 6:49 AM, David Bailey wrote:
> Peace Helen!
> I am not in any way saying that how you teach is dangerous - I was more
> imagining a situation in which students had access to Mathematica at any
> time they wanted (student copy) and could use it to attack pencil and
> paper problems that you had set them. In that situation, I think you
> could end up with some students who became good at Mathematica, but
> didn't learn enough maths.

This is really a non-issue. We have a university-wide site license for 
Mathematica. It's available to everyone who wants it, 24/7. It is 
available on computers all over campus (including the classrooms where I 
teach), and the students have it on their laptops.

My students know that they will be tested on, for example, techniques of 
integration, without any Mathematica or even a calculator. There is 
absolutely no incentive for them to "cheat" and use Mathematica on the 
skill-and-drill problems that are assigned for practice (and which are 
not collected or grade). They will either work on these problems by hand 
for practice (perhaps using Mathematica to check their work), or they 
won't do it at all, with obvious consequences when it comes to tests and 
quizzes. For other kinds of homework problems, I tell the students to 
use Mathematica to assist, but even if I don't say one way or the other, 
the students all exercise good judgment about when to do 
pencil-and-paper work, when to use Mathematica, and when to do some of each.

As far as testing goes, I give tests in two parts. For Part 1, the 
students have only something to write with -- no Mathematica, no 
calculator. For Part 2, they have full use of Mathematica; they print 
their Mathematica work and staple it to their test paper when they hand 
in Part 2. Quizzes are sometimes with Mathematica, sometimes without, 
and sometimes in two parts, depending on the content.

Helen Read
University of Vermont

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