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# Computers and Elementary School Mathematics (page 2)

By Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

### Computers as Tools

Computers serve as tools when they carry out definite functions, such as graphing, storing and retrieving information, and calculating. Elementary school children should be engaged in many projects that require collecting data, organizing the information, and making graphs to communicate their findings. It is useful to be able quickly to change a graphic representation so as to determine the display that most forcefully conveys the data. Graphing programs are therefore useful to learners. A program to learn and explore graphing is The Graph Club (Tom Snyder Productions). When using graphing programs, students need to be aware of the potential of the program and to experiment with different graphic representations.

Data base programs make it possible to collect large amounts of data, formulate questions, and organize and sort the information. Such programs can provide worthwhile learning activities for children; for example, the sorting activity discussed by Wiebe (1990) enables a learner to experience sorting and re-sorting as he or she mentally creates new categories with different attributes.

Spreadsheets are large tables in a row-and-column format in which cell values can be operated on and changed at any time. Spreadsheets can be used with elementary school children. Working with a simple spreadsheet template, students can deal with different variables in a single problem and note the relations among variables as the numbers are changed. Edwards and Bitter (1989) discuss using large numbers in a spreadsheet activity to extend pupils' understanding. For example, the activity for young learners could be: If 30 granola bars cost \$20, how much would 60, 90, 120, ... , 450 cost?

### Computers as Tutees

When a student programs the computer, the computer is the object of instruction, that is, serves as a tutee. To program, the child must know a computer language. BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is one such language introduced to elementary school children. LOGO (Greek for "word") is another. LOGO was developed by Seymour Papert, a mathematician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LOGO enables children to command a trianglelike figure, the turtle, to make lines and shapes on the monitor. A few simple commands, such as RIGHT 90 or FORWARD 30 give the learner great power to make geometric figures and designs. LOGO provides problem-solving experiences, and is interactive in that, over and over again, the learners directs, the computer responds, and the child reacts to the response. When using the LOGO program, the student is creative and engages in higher-level thinking to produce a design that meets certain criteria.