Enhancing College Algebra with Interactive Software

Submitted by Marianne Smith on

Having taught MAT151 (College Algebra) in both Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, I noticed that a fair number of students were having difficulty understanding the concept of a function.  Many failed to recognize how a function's output value varies in a predictable way based on changes to its input value, and most had a hard time connecting the geometric, tabular, verbal and equation representations of a function. Developing this understanding is critical to student success in MAT151 and subsequent math classes. Based on my experience with the District's Modular Math Redesign effort over the summer, I decided to include an interactive software tool in my Fall 2012 classes along with extensive TI-84 calculator examples.  GeoGebra is an open-source interactive tool that gives students a way to see how a function's graph relates to its equation as well as to a point table.  They can manipulate one representation of the function and observe the changes in the other representations. Since there is already a large GeoGebra user base, many relevant examples were already available online. Examples and final grade comparisons are attached.

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Average: 4 (2 votes)


Bronwen Steele Tue, 01/08/2013 - 11:08am

Just curious about how many exercises they did with GeoGebra? Also, were you satisfied with the results (they look good to us - Rachel Smith and I)? I guess we are just looking for a conclusion. . .

Marianne Smith Tue, 01/08/2013 - 2:24pm

There were about 10 covering several main topics in MAT151 (in links file attached). I didn't create structured exercises specifically for use with GeoGebra. I demo'd how to use each applet in class, and then suggested problems in the MAT151 Workbook for which the applet would be helpful.  Links to the applets were provided in Blackboard. GeoGebra is like having a graphing calculator where you can interactively manipulate the graph rather than typing in a different example. Students really seemed to respond positively to that connection between the graph and equation.

Rene Willekens Tue, 08/13/2013 - 11:54am

This is very cool assessment. I am always interested in how new learning tools can improve student performance.  It can be fun to experiment with new technology, but few follow up with a formal assessment of the technology.  It's good to see the loop closed.  Great Job!

I did notice this was a comparison between a fall and spring semester. Do you notice differences in student preparedness between the two semesters?  If yes, it would be interesting to do a comparison with a like semester (e.g., fall versus fall).  

Marianne Smith Tue, 08/13/2013 - 1:39pm

That's a good question, Rene.  I'll have to go back and look at the performance of my MAT151 classes in the fall versus in the spring, just to see if there is any pattern of better performance in one versus the other over time.  It seems that more students withdraw in the fall than the spring.  I'll check that supposition out as well. If it's true, it may be that some drop when their work hours increase for the holidays. Thanks for your insight!