A blog about teaching and learning in a maths classroom.

Computer Aided Homework

Sunday, 18 October 2009 | 6 Comments

A Digital Education Revolution (DER) laptop in the hands of all Year 9 students changes everything… or does it?

The laptops include Microsoft Math which includes a CAS, that is, every Year 9 student can now get the computer to solve equations and simplify algebraic expressions. (More on the functionality of MS Maths in this review at squareCircleZ)

Now, I have no problem giving students tools like this – it is “real-world”, that is, an engineer doesn’t build a bridge without computer assistance. My question today is “how do I integrate it effectively”?

Year 9 are looking at expansion and factorisation of algebraic expressions the first week back, and I fired up MS Maths to see what it could do:

Screenshot of MS Maths shows that it can solve expansion and factorisation of algebraic expression problems

So, Microsoft Math solves the problems that many students at my school would say is that hardest thing they do in Mathematics in Years 7-9.

There are couple of ways I could deal with this:

  1. Don’t tell the students that their laptops can solve these problems.
  2. After having learnt how to do these types of problems the more traditional way, show them how the computer does it – and introduce some higher-order problems that previously may not have been achievable by these students and allow them to solve with the traditional way or a computer.
  1. Show them that the computer can do it from the start and see what happens.

In the end, though, the School Certificate exam is still paper-based without netbooks or graphics calculators.

Are there other options? What are your thoughts?

Posted in • How toLesson IdeaAlgebraSoftwareMicrosoft MathsTechnologyDigital Education RevolutionLaptops 4 Learning | Short URL:


eneyland on  18 October 09  at  06:01 AM #
Hi! You are doing an amazing job exploring all the features of the laptop! Yes I think kids will love that MS Maths can do their factorising for them! I will be passing on the details of your maths kit site to the maths teachers at my school! Thanks for your post.
Simon Borgert on  18 October 09  at  11:41 AM #
Number 2 definitely won't work! They will find it! As for Number 1) - see above - it is most likely to occur before you get around to introducing higher order problems, That leaves number 3! I did the same with GeoGebra and a Yr 11 Linear algebra assignment. Similarly I have shown all my classes the power of Wolfram Alpha to do exactly the same thing. Use it to introduce higher order concepts more quickly


Simon Job on  18 October 09  at  11:44 AM #
Simon, I'm not sure that my students _will_ find it. Besides that, do you think it's helped or hindered the learning of skills? How so?
GlennSo on  18 October 09  at  05:00 PM #
I have TI-nSpires in my Alg 2 class, and I refuse to put in the 84 faceplate for just this reason. The nSpire will do so much more than the 84. Some of my learners have been exploring and finding things, some are deathly afraid of picking it up. I teach how to do the basics, and then quiz / test them on it. Later I show them shortcuts on the calc, so that I can assess their learning and my teaching first, and then show the the benefits of technology later. I see that as a compromise of sorts.
liz hemmings on  22 October 09  at  10:31 AM #
Its an add on so is it already loaded on the laptops? I had to download and install it on my own copy of Office 2007 Word. I assumed the kids wouldn't be able install it. I will probably teach them how to do it traditionally then tell them how to use the program.


Simon Job on  22 October 09  at  10:35 AM #
Liz, Yes, MS Maths is installed on the laptops as part of the suite of software. The "full list of software":

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Simon Job — eleventh year of teaching maths in a public high school in Western Sydney, Australia.
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