Mathematics, computers and umbilical cords

Cretchley, Patricia and Galbraith, P. (2003) Mathematics, computers and umbilical cords. New Zealand Journal of Mathematics, 32 (Supple). pp. 37-46. ISSN 1171-6096


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Recent research within a technology-enriched first-year Australian Algebra & Calculus course has revealed that while some early undergraduate students are quite strongly empowered by the use of technology, others are clearly not, and that it is difficult to predict the nature and levels of their use of technology. This report summarises some aspects of the data gathered in 2001 and 2003, that indicate that students' prior technology experience, their professed attitudes towards the use of technology in the learning of mathematics, both their mathematics and computer confidence levels, and their levels of engagement in technology tasks over the semester, are poor predictors of the nature and level of their use of technology when doing mathematics. This trend proved robust, emerging in data captured under different conditions: for a focus group of 29 students performing workshop tasks voluntarily towards the end of the semester, and under the pressures and constraints of the mid-semester test for a different class of 109 students two years later. It was evident even for a number of students who engaged conscientiously in using technology every week of the semester.

Further observations suggested that these students' prior learning habits and preferences may influence their behaviour. Sudden deep immersion in technology is stimulating for some, but may be counter-productive for others. Theories on learning and cognition suggest that prior learning experiences are pivotal when students
construct meaning. We need to support students strongly as they engage in stimulating new learning experiences, and accommodate the different rates at which their learning habits and preferences evolve out of what may be deeply seated learning needs and beliefs. While aspects of these umbilical cord-like ties with the past may hinder their assimilation of new cultures of learning and practice, to cut those cords prematurely might be perilous for their mathematical studies.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Deposited with the permission of the Editor, New Zealand Journal of Mathematics.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Maths and Computing (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Maths and Computing (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:51
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2020 21:13
Uncontrolled Keywords: mathematics, computers, technology, learning, undergraduates, confidence, assessment, preferences, habits
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130306 Educational Technology and Computing
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130309 Learning Sciences
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390405 Educational technology and computing
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390303 Higher education
39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390409 Learning sciences

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