The Unique Effects of Including History in College Algebra - Mathematics Is a Fluid Discipline

D. Goodwin (Black Hills State University) and G. W. Hagerty (Black Hills State University) and S. Smith (Black Hills State University)

Mathematics is a dynamic field that renews and updates itself with each generation. College Algebra texts of 50 years ago are substantially different from the College Algebra texts of today. One important difference is the advent of various technologies such as calculators and computer algebra systems. The use of technology not only assists in solving problems, but has ultimately changed the focus of the instruction from algorithmic manipulations to conceptual understanding. It is important to share with students the historical development of technology and the influence of technology on the discipline of mathematics. When students truly understand mathematics concepts and how technology can be effectively used, perhaps they will be more likely to believe that mathematics is a useful and important subject to study. In order to stress these important connections, a lesson was written on the history and development of technology that was used with a calculator laboratory lesson to find x-intercepts of polynomials.

With this focus, it was expected that the students would realize that mathematics education that was acceptable for their parents’ generation may no longer be acceptable for them. Instead, today’s students need to look closely at the changing world and determine what mathematical ideas, skills and understandings are going to be important not only for their first job, but also for success throughout all the years of their employment.