First presenter Co-presenter(s)
Name :  Bruce Char Name:  Jeremy Johnson *
E-mail: E-mail:  
Affiliation: Drexel University Name:  David Augenblick
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Country: USA Name:   
01-25  E-mail:    
Session: 1- Computer Algebra in Education Schedule:
Thursday, 12:00
Related website:  
Title of
Using Maple and Maple TA in a course about technical computing

Engineering Computation Lab is a year-long one credit/term sequence taught to approximately 700 Engineering freshmen at Drexel University. It combines in-class collaborative lab work in small sections, with on-line homework with automated feedback and grading. Typically 75% of the contact time is spent in hands-on active learning.

Distinctive elements include: a) A course platform of an interactive interpreted system with extensive built-in technical functionality (Maple Computer Algebra System) rather than a "generic" compiled language. This means that students can quickly get useful results, rather than going through the learning curve with "hello world" tasks. Over time, the course makes a transition from "calculator-like" sequences in a GUI, to scripting and then procedures. b) Emphasis on computing for technical/scientific problems: simulation and computational exploration using numerical computation and visualization, symbolic computation for calculus-or algebra-based model-derivation. c) Sensible use of technical computing is the primary instructional objective. The course uses the science and mathematics the students have already encountered in other courses. We thus have time to talk about computing concepts (data structures, control structures, procedures and types) without a heavy science/math pedagogical agenda. This introduces the terminology and conceptual framework that should allow better transfer of this knowledge to other programming languages and systems.

Standard educational IT (CMS, mailing lists, wiki) is used extensively. Distinctive IT use includes laboratories equipped for support of collaborative group work and small-scale coaching sessions, and use of an on-line quiz/exam system (Maple TA) that delivers staff-authored individually-generated versions of problems to students, with immediate feedback. These elements have allowed us to run the course and its trailer sections using a small number of senior staff with peer tutor undergraduate assistants and graduate student TAs. While not occupying the primary focus, the non-floating point features of computer algebra systems (exact solution and calculus operations, extended precision numerics, list processing, and formula-based visualization) are used as part of the every day coursework for exploring and solving technical problems.