URI math professors & students find
Internet adds to education
KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 31, 1999 -- Three URI mathematicians are part
of the revolution that is radically changing the way math is being taught,
and they aren,t hearing math anxiety complaints from their troops"the
In fact, URI Professors Dean Clark of Westerly, Barbara Kaskosz of Wakefield,
and Lewis Pakula of the East Side of Providence are helping to lead the
charge. Their "weapon is the Internet.
The three are incorporating powerful mathematical software packages,
Maple and Mathview, into the curriculum. Using this software, the three
faculty members have written course programs that illuminate what math means
and how it can be applied.
"You can,t find stuff like this at other Internet sites. It,s unique
to URI, says Clark who has searched other colleges, math Web pages and found
"The Internet is a new tool, says Kaskosz "but there is a tendency
to do the same old thing. We,re using Maple in a more creative and accessible
way. It gives students more insight into what the problems mean.
Pakula agrees, noting that technology is changing math and science instruction.
Software is rivaling textbooks. Now even the most complex calculations whose
algebraic and graphical difficulties were once considered too great to be
done "by hand can be completed by computer software within seconds.
"We can present more sophisticated problems and concentrate on the
bigger picture, he says.
The problems in Clark,s course are genuinely puzzling. An avid puzzle
enthusiast and graphic designer, Clark has developed an interactive Web
site (www.uri.edu/artsci/mth/w108) that is colorful, clever and, well, fun.
Using the commercial MathView software, Clark created the interactive designs
while his undergraduate assistant Mike Smith built the site. (See sidebar
story on Smith.)
The site challenges students to do such tasks as design a slot machine,
figure out card shuffling tricks, and open a diabolical combination lock.
"The students are using analytical skills with symbolic algebra, says
Clark who teaches Math 108, a general education course designed for students
who have no specialized knowledge of math.
On the other hand, Barbara Kaskosz and Lewis Pakula use Maple, a research-level
program, to design a series of interactive worksheets for calculus. Worksheets
can be downloaded via the Internet from the Mathematics Department,s Web
site. Maple, with its great facilities for graphics and visualization, enlivens
the courses and prepares the students for the new educational and workplace
conditions in this era of rapid technological change. So far, nearly 600
calculus students have participated in the project.
The three professors say the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
"The students know they need to know the technology. It,s a new
world and they have to keep pace, says Pakula. "Besides, many of our
undergraduate students already have been using computers for 10 years or
more. They,re comfortable at the computer keyboard.
URI,s Mathematics Department Web site address is www.math.uri.edu.
For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116