2nd foray

Having done graphing with Maple the other day, we worked a little bit with solving systems of equations by substitution. One of the students mentioned that instead of assigning names by typing “L1:=y=3x+2” you could avoid the first equal sign and just use a colon.
Well, that was okay for graphing, since you just right-clicked and chose plot. However, it doesn’t work because the assignment to L1 isn’t made, so when you tried to do a substitution into L1, it didn’t exist.
Some of the students in the 2nd section had a challenge with the 2nd line they dropped on to the graph only had domain -10 to 10… wasn’t sure why that was happening.
The second section does algebra on Friday … and we’ll do more algebra with it next week!

Dipping a toe in…

Okay… well we made an attempt at Maple 12 today… just a brief introduction to graphing. I deliberately did it by assigning names to the equations
L1:=y=3x+2
Then I chose to have them graph it implicitly. I’m trying to plan ahead here, so that I can use the names of the equations when they start to solve algebraically by elimination.

Unfortunately, Sharepoint requires them to download and save the file and THEN open it … it won’t open directly 🙁

So it starts…

It begins tomorrow. Well, actually, it doesn’t because the students don’t have their laptops tomorrow so we will just do a “welcome back to school, I’m your teacher, here’s a little activity” without involving any technology.
So it will actually start on Tuesday. I’m hoping to get the permission forms approved by admin by then so they can get home, signed & returned by next Monday. Then I can formally start recording observations! In the meantime we’ll introduce Maple 12 and see how it goes. More, much more, to come.

Out to the students

We’ve distributed out to the students instructions on how to install Maple on their laptop before they arrive in class. Normally (and in the future, one hopes) this will be part of the tablet image that goes on to the computer before the student receives it or gets repaired but the IT department has been swamped. The process is easy (agree to everything, basically) but it does take about 20 minutes.
One of the big concerns with Maple is that it is a huge program; it takes about 30 seconds to get up and running. One wishes that there was some kind of staged loading, so that it would pop up immediately and then bring in things over time. The context menu pops up rather slowly, too, but much faster than previous version. If we’re going to make the change so that this is the mathematical scratchpad then the faster things are, the less chance the tech gets in the way of student problem solving.

Workshop day

So we had our workshop today… not bad, six teachers, so that’s half the department. Two others were working at school and couldn’t make it. A good four hour session with a pro-user who’s also a teacher. While he didn’t cover a lot of the fundamental stuff or get into all the changes in the user interface that Maple 12 has, he did keep up with most of our teachers (we’re an agressive bunch when it comes to learner… doctors making the worst patients and all). There was a nice bit of work done with programming and question construction. Hopefully things will come of it… we discussed a lot of classroom issues while we were learning Maple. Now I have to have some serious stuff ready for next week!

Maple 12 Interface

One of the reasons we’ve decided to jump into this CAS process at this point in time is that the new interface is far more student-friendly. We were loath to start with a CAS when the learning curve would be so great. While I know that some would say that the TI is a possibility, it’s short-sighted; no one uses the TI software/handhelds beyond highschool. And the hand-helds are a button-intensive, small screen mess. It’s a toss-up between Maple and Mathematica – and we have an existing relationship with Maple (it’s HQ is down the road an hour).
The interface is now far more point & click with no (okay, few) arcane (to students) commands and it describes the step that has been performs.
Graphing is a lot easier (you can drag an expression onto a grid and it graphs!) and parameters can be automated with a click.
That, of course, is the easy part done. Now, the hard part:

  • what questions do we ask to develop understanding, concepts, algorithms?
  • how do we encourage exploration over presentation?
  • how do we avoid an emphasis on calculation/algorithm/button pushing? This can’t be just “better worksheets through CAS”
  • how do we make the link between paper-pencil and CAS techniques?
  • how do we strength understanding of equivalence (since CAS’ representations differ)?
  • how do we deal with the time factor? (student-centred takes more time)?
  • are our teachers ready to deal with the mathematical conversation that will/should occur?

Day -26

Just doing some preliminary setup for storing and sharing information on our project… the Drexel courses I’ve been taking on (Action) Research have been helpful in doing a lot of the preliminary readings (see sidebar for some good references). I’m also trying to work on the Sharepoint site… it may already be time to throw in the towel on that and just use a wiki. I’d much prefer the wiki anyways just because of the ease of use (for me and other users), accessibility (are our Sharepoint sites available to outside users?) and my own personal philosophy.