Date of Award

1994

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Dr Anthony Herrington

Abstract

The call for the use of computer technology in mathematics education has been heeded by the Ministry of Education in Western Australia. The syllabus documents for the Upper Secondary mathematics courses recommend the use of computer software packages for the teaching of the concepts involved in these courses. In particular, the electronic spreadsheet is suggested as a versatile and useful tool for simulations and problem-solving by students, although very little formal study has been undertaken to support or refute such beliefs. This study involved teaching a group of four Year 12 students to operate a spreadsheet, and then examined the way the spreadsheet was used by the students to represent and solve certain mathematical problems. In this way, it was hoped to identify and explain any conceptual and strategic difficulties encountered by the students when using the spreadsheet. In order to achieve this aim, a constructivist teaching experiment was chosen. This method is especially suited to investigations of this nature. It provides for the required interaction between tutor and students, and allows for the observation of behaviour which continually serves to refine the models devised for the explanation of such behaviour. The researcher acted as tutor during the four learning episodes. It was found that many of the difficulties encountered by the students were typical of those seen when students attempted to solve mathematical problems without an electronic spreadsheet. However, the spreadsheet environment was seen to be a useful aid as it allowed a series of calculations to be performed, with the results available on the computer monitor. This is in contrast to hand-held calculators which can usually only display one result at a time: The students tended to look back over previous results and were happy to modify their approach when necessary.

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