Teaching Elementary Calculus with CAS Calculators

Lyn Bloom
Eng & maths
Patricia Forster
Ute Mueller
Edith Cowan University


In this paper we present our experiences of introducing the CAS graphics calculator into a first year elementary calculus unit taught recently at Edith Cowan University in Perth. We used a Reform Calculus textbook and the fourfold analytic, geometric, numeric and word-description approach advocated in it. The students comprised a mixture of mature age students and school leavers, and they had a wide variety of mathematical and (non-CAS) calculator backgrounds. They were studying calculus as a service unit for a number of different major programs. A set of HP49G CAS graphics calculators was available for student use in class, in the tests and in the final examination. Some HP49G calculators were available in the library for out of class use. The essential difference between using standard graphics calculators for teaching/learning in the unit and using the CAS calculators is the ability to hand analytic procedures to the higher level technology, and associated with this are some new possibilities for learning. We give an overview of the approaches we took to teaching and then assessing with these calculators; and, in particular, we describe the approaches we took with limits, the problems encountered and our responses to the outcomes. We examine also aspects of the CAS use revealed by an analysis of selected test and assignment questions. Finally, we compare students' success in the unit with information obtained from an entry questionnaire on mathematics and calculator backgrounds.

© ATCM, Inc. 2001.