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Does technology make a difference?
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has long advocated the use of calculators at all levels of mathematics instruction. Research (Hembree, 1986; Dunham & Dick, 1994) has indicated that students using calculators possess a better attitude toward mathematics. With that in mind, this study focused on the use of the graphing calculator and its influence on student attitudes toward mathematics in high school. In the study, questionnaires were given by four public high school teachers in four mathematics classes. The questionnaires were concerned with attitudes toward the graphing calculator itself and toward mathematics. The questionnaires were administered to approximately 140 students as a pre-survey at the beginning of a mathematics course and again at the conclusion of the same course after students had calculator instruction and experience working with the graphing calculator. Journals were kept by the teachers to provide additional opportunity to measure any changes in attitudes. Teachers recorded student reactions to learning with the graphing calculator. Some notes also included possible ways of improving the activities used in the instruction. Open-ended questions were also given to the students after the selected calculator lessons. These questionnaires provided a place for the students to express their feelings in their own words. These remarks provided more data to determine the student attitude changes. At the conclusion of the semester, the students were ranked by their final course grade in the classes under study. The students were then grouped into top one third, middle one third, and bottom one third of each class. The three groups were labeled high, medium, and low respectively. From each group, five students were randomly selected to be used for our data analysis. The findings verified the expectation that the graphing calculator and its use in mathematics classes would have a positive impact on the attitudes of students towards mathematics. Findings and conclusions were made based on the results of the questionnaires, open-ended questions and journal entries.