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An illustration: Math 131 - Calculus I

When I taught differential calculus in Fall 2001, the students and I agreed to try a project that would allow us to get an idea of what one *could* learn in calculus. Each student did a web search with the goal of discovering and completing a *Mathematica* calculus lab used by students at some other college or university. After students had completed the project I gave a ``quiz'' in-class where students were asked to comment individually on what they learned, what they liked about the project, and to make specific suggestions for how the assignment might be improved Student comments were overwhelmingly positive about the experience and contained indicators of the kind of awareness of self and academic community that I had hoped to engender. The following student remarks are representative of the comments:
- I thought that Lab 3 was a very good lab to do. Although it took me quite a while to find a lab that I liked, it was kind of fun to see what everyone else around the country was doing. There were a lot of different colleges using Mathematica and they each had a different twist on what they taught. I believe that it is good to hear explanations of Calculus from many different people because you might understand something a little more each time. My lab had to do with instantaneous velocities. The lab wasn't too difficult but the best part about it was finding the lab and seeing what other people were doing.

- Finding and doing a lab was rather difficult. I would say that to better the lab, give a choice of a few different websites for students to choose from, it was hard to try and find one on our own. However, it was an interesting experience, and I learned how to use Mathematics to differentiate functions using the product rule and the chain rule. I didn't love the assignment, but it didn't kill me either. I also learned that the derivative of sin(x) is cos(x).

- It was very intersting in that all teacher teach different and go about showing and doing equations different. I now feel that I understand how to use Mathematica to my advantage. There are endless amounts of labs on the internet to find one from. Each lab was different and went about finding an answer in all types of ways. I like it but I didn't always know what the other teacher wanted as an answer.

In this same class, as review for the final exam, students found and brought in calculus exams from universities around the world (they searched the web to find them). Attempting calculus problems from a wide array of approaches allowed students to situate their course and their calculus learning in the larger world of national and international peer experiences.

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Shandy Hauk
2007-01-18