Connecting the student and the computer: Development and implementation of a lab component for Calculus I

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Arts (D.A.)



First Committee Member

Victor C. Pestien, Committee Chair


A series of thirteen computer lab lessons for introductory calculus were written and implemented in three experimental sections of Calculus I at the University of Miami. Two of the sections were taught by the author and the third by Prof. Pestien. For each experimental section, one of the four weekly lecture hours was replaced with a two-hour mandatory lab period. Lab sections were limited to groups of eight students, each having his own IBM XT compatible personal computer. The lessons were written around the software which was available in the lab, True Basic Calculus and Calculus Toolkit. They could be adapted for use with another software package by rewriting the instructions. The design of the lessons would remain intact.Student response to the labs, as reflected in written evaluations and in the level of interest observed by the author, was generally positive. Roughly three-quarters of the students preferred the lab to an additional hour of lecture, and the same number felt the lab was more beneficial than the additional lecture hour would have been. Furthermore, the students' grasp of fundamental concepts was generally stronger than that of other similar groups with which the author has worked.The visual representation of mathematical ideas was the primary advantage of the lab. Other advantages included the emphasis on a more direct intuitive comprehension of the material, the promotion of active involvement in the learning process, the opportunity for student collaboration, which was encouraged but not required, and the cultivation of careful observation and a high level of engagement with the material.In general, the students seemed to enjoy working with the computers. There is apparently a reservoir of natural interest and enthusiasm in most of them which can be tapped with the right materials. It makes good sense to channel that interest into lab lessons which can reinforce and complement the standard classroom presentation.


Education, Mathematics; Education, Technology of

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