T135Y Calculus – Implementing Computational Assignments

  • Professor Andrijana Burazin, Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences, University of Toronto Mississauga
  • Professor Tyler Holden, Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences, University of Toronto Mississauga

Abstract

Presently, first-year calculus courses in the Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences (MCS) are delivered in a traditional format including assessment done through online/written assignments and supervised tests. As industry moves increasingly towards valuing computational methods over pen-and-paper computation, introducing numerical methods early will give our students an additional useful skill.

This project will support the implementation of computational assignments (CAs) in MAT135Y Calculus, typically taken by physical science students. CAs are assignments that require students to think computationally and to work with computer code in order to investigate and solve given problems, thus enforcing their understanding of mathematical concepts. Through their dynamic and interactive nature, CAs will allow students to experiment with and explore mathematical ideas which are challenging if approached solely by paper-and-pen. Research suggests that the affordances of programming, such as working with abstractions, deepen students’ conceptual understanding. Thus, we believe that CAs have the potential to improve student success in MAT135Y and other mathematics and physical science courses. A repository of CAs and related documentation will be created for future use in any first-year calculus course.

To examine the effectiveness of the CAs, we will analyze assessment scores and administer pre- and post-student feedback surveys to identify to what extent CAs contributed to students’ learning. The success of CAs in MAT135Y could lead to the introduction of a new calculus course with an enhanced computational approach. Similar CAs could be implemented in upper-year
mathematics courses, such as vector calculus and differential equations.