eJMT Abstract

Title Computer Algebra System (CAS) Usage and Sustainability in University Mathematics Instruction: Findings from an International Study
Author Daniel H. JARVIS, Chantal BUTEAU and Zsolt LAVICZA
Volume 8
Number 4

This paper reports on research findings of Jarvis, Buteau, and Lavicza (2012) regarding the sustained use of Computer Algebra Systems (CAS) in university instruction. CAS use among individual professors and its sustained use in university departments are timely topics within a technological era. Instructor beliefs regarding the nature of mathematics learning, required curriculum/assessment changes, the use of technology in one’s own research, and the availability of resources are among the complex set of factors that affect the degree to which technology is implemented within undergraduate university mathematics courses. A Canadian national survey of over 300 participating mathematicians indicated that many professors are using CAS in their instructional practice, and that the greatest factor influencing the use of CAS in one’s post-secondary mathematics teaching is the use of CAS in one’s own research. While individual adoption of CAS and other instructional technologies may be popular among technology enthusiasts, the long-term adoption of these technologies across an entire mathematics department faculty is much more difficult. Findings from two departmental case studies in the United Kingdom and Canada indicate that a sustained implementation at the departmental level requires a unique combination of key factors and strategies such as: a dedicated core group led by a committed advocate in a position of influence/power (e.g., Head/Chair); a strong and shared incentive for change; strategic hiring processes; an administration which supports creative pedagogical reform and well-considered risk-taking; and a continuous and determined revisiting of the original vision and purpose. Significant challenges to implementation are also discussed.