NEWSLETTER: VOL III, # 6, November 23, 1998
COOL: Calculus Offered On-Line
Mathematics Department UW-Parkside
Before I describe the current calculus course that I offer on-line, I would like to give some background on how the course came about.
In 1993, I was first exposed to Mathematica, a program developed by Wolfram Research that can do mathematics symbolically, display it graphically, and deliver it inside electronic notebooks. I discovered that materials for teaching calculus at the University of Illinois in Urbana /Champaign had been developed by Jerry Uhl et al and published by Addison-Wesley. It was called Calculus & Mathematica and the became a regular calculus course at the University of Illinois with the following departure from the the traditional approach:
"Traditional Mathematics courses emphasize the learning of mathematics through rote work, memorization, and mastery of hand methods of solving problems. Although this can result in creating a good human calculator, it is not conducive to in-depth and substantive understanding of mathematical concepts.
Calculus and Mathematica does away with this traditional approach. Since students use Mathematica software to help them step through the boring routines of traditional mathematical learning, they are free to achieve a better conceptual understanding of the material while still gaining a good knowledge of the methods of problem-solving. The end result is a student who really understands the material he or she is working on."
In 1996, I found Netmath, directed by Debra Woods at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. She had taken the materials written by Jerry Uhl, and offered a distance calculus course to high school students in Illinois who were mathematically prepared for a college-level course. In the Netmath program, undergraduate students are employed as mentors to the students.
In 1997, I offered a version of this course at the University of Wisconsin -Parkside for talented high school students in Wisconsin using the Calculus & Mathematica materials. Five high school students from Tomah and Waukesha took the course. While the students who completed the challenge enjoyed the course, it was very time consuming for me since nothing overlapped with a traditional course in calculus that I teach each semester. Also, I was not satisfied with the textbook for Calculus & Mathematica that is essentially a printed copy of the Mathematica notebooks.
In 1998, I created my own notebooks and coordinate them with the textbook that is used in our regular calculus course on campus. The textbook is Calculus, Third edition by James Stewart. Thus I would be offering the same course that I teach in a lecture format at UW-Parkside to the high school students at a distance.
COOL Math 221 covers the same material as a regular semester long class taught at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Students extend their knowledge of calculus by using a tool that will allow them to visualize calculus concepts and solve computationally more difficult problems. At the same time, they learn a powerfull tool -- Mathematica -- used by students and professionals.
- The students learn calculus primarily by reading the textbook, doing homework problems, and interacting with Mathematica notebooks downloaded over the Internet.
- Students submit their homework by completing notebooks and sending them back attached to small messages.
- COOL Math 221 is run like a regular college level course at UW-Parkside lasting 16 weeks. At this pace it requires 8 to 10 hours of work a week. High school students may take the entire year to finish the material.
- A student who passes COOL Math 221 receives 5 hours of college credit for Calculus 221 at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, making it transferable to any university in the United States.
- COOL Math 221 is not for everyone. It requires that the student be very self disciplined and able to study much of the material, including Mathematica, on their own. It is not recommended for students who only want to go through the motions. However, for students with ambitions in engineering, physical sciences, life sciences (including pre-med), and mathematics and who want to get moving, this course is ideal.
Software and Hardware Needs
- The Mathematica 3.0 program developed by Wolfram Research
- PC (486 or higher) with Windows or Macintosh, both with 16 MB RAM or higher
- Direct connection to the Internet or at least a 14.4 modem and phone line
- A local Internet service provider to the school or home
- The cost of the Mathematica 3.0 is $139 for high schools per copy. A student version is available for those who wish to have their own copy at home.
- The textbook: Calculus, Third Edition, by James Stewart published by Brooks/Cole Pub.
- The tuition for the 5-credit course at UW-Parkside is $543 for all students (including out-of-state students).
- Highly recommended (but not required) Calc Wiz (S39.95). Additional costs for Internet service to those who don't have it.
For more information about how you can take advantage of a COOL opportunity for your mathematically prepared students, please contact the Instructor, Dr. Don Piele, Professor of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin-Parkside http://www.uwp.edu/academic/Mathematics/faculty/piele.html.
900 Wood Rd.
Kenosha, WI 53141
Ph: 414-634-0869 or 414-595-2231
* Professor Piele is the creator of the column "Mathematica Pearls" in the journal Mathematica in Education and Research and "Cowculations" in Quantum Magazine. He is also the director of the USA Computing Olympiad (http://usaco.uwp.edu).