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Examples Of How Symbolic, Hand Held Calculators Have Changed The Way We Teach Engineering Mathematics

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Laptop/Handheld Computing in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.539.1 - 7.539.14

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Paper Authors

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Michel Beaudin

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Kathleen Pineau

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 1620

Examples of How Symbolic, Hand-held Calculators have Changed the way we Teach Engineering Mathematics Michel Beaudin, Kathleen Pineau École de technologie supérieure†


Since the 1999 fall semester, the TI-92 Plus or the TI-89 (scientific calculators with symbolic computation capabilities) has been compulsory for all full-time students entering our engineering school. The introduction of this hand-held technology has forced us to re-assess our goals and explore new approaches in teaching mathematics.

In this paper, we will present innovative uses of the TI-92 Plus/89 that relate to our calculus and differential equations courses. We will give examples of presentations taken from our lectures that illustrate how they have changed since the mandatory introduction of these calculators. We will also give examples of questions that we use to assess our students’ understanding of the material.


In 1996, Texas Instruments’ TI-92, precursor of the TI-92 Plus and the TI-89,‡ made its way into our classrooms. At the time, this symbolic hand-held calculator was the only one available that had general algebraic computation capabilities. From 1996 to 1999, as more and more students brought these calculators into our classrooms, it was becoming difficult to design tests that would correctly assess student learning. To some extent, and in an effort to minimize inequities, we were led to essentially supplying the answers to questions. For example, we would ask students to show that the derivative of

f ( x ) = 3 x x + 1 is f ' ( x ) = 2 2 ( 3x 3x 2 + 2 ) x2 + 1 instead of asking them to find the derivative, and simplify the answer. One can understand our misgivings about using this type of assessment. In fact, these symbolic hand-held calculators forced us to re-examine not only the assessment tools we used but also the way we taught. A decision had to be made, do we prohibit the use of these calculators or do we embrace the opportunities they offer?

Fortunately our decision was made easier, but was by no means easy, by the fact that a majority of the mathematics lecturers at our university were familiar with computer algebra systems † École de technologie supérieure is a technical engineering school with an undergraduate student enrolment of approximately 2800. ‡ The TI-92 Plus and the TI-89 offer the same symbolic computation capabilities; they differ mainly by their physical shape and size.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Beaudin, M., & Pineau, K. (2002, June), Examples Of How Symbolic, Hand Held Calculators Have Changed The Way We Teach Engineering Mathematics Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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