# The Role of Computers in Mathematics Education

## Introduction

The current era of technological development affects every area of life. Aspects of technology have been incorporated into the school curriculum as an effort towards inculcating and cultivating a positive interest and attitude towards technological development. School culture should be changed from something based on memory to something knowledgeable, thoughtful, creative, and caring by using the latest technology (KPM, 1997). For this reason, the government through the Ministry of Education intends to create Smart Schools which at the same time act to fill the planning agenda and the implementation of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). The implementation of Smart Schools will open the widest possible space to computer technology that will allow flexibility and diversity to be built in the education system. This environment will reduce the opportunity gap between those who are and are able to use the latest technology at home, with those who are less (KPM, 1997).

## Computer Aided Teaching

The changes that are taking place in the world of education now will certainly change the content and design of the curriculum of each subject (Jamaludin, 1989; Nik Azis, 1989). The mathematics curriculum also cannot escape the current of this technology (Fatimah & Munirah, 1995; PPK, 1993; Nik Azis, 1989). Computer education in the curriculum involves three important roles (Nik Azis, 1989);

1. Learning about computer software, hardware, and computer programming

2. Use of computers to maintain and process data

- processing research data
- process words

3. The use of computers to help the teaching and learning process

- student settings
- computer-assisted teaching and learning (PPBK).

Computer-assisted teaching and learning (PPBK) is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence techniques to help a person learn (Jamaluddin, 1989). Microcomputers are used to maintain teaching activities guided by programs developed by software writers. Pupils interact with computer programs or software through terminals (Nik Azis, 1989).

In computer-assisted teaching (CAI), a computer can be considered a tutor or teacher. In the actual teaching process in the classroom, the teacher acts as an instructor (instructor), illuminator (explainer), and facilitator (facilitator). All of these roles can be taken over by computers in CAI (Abd. Rahman, 1995). Computer-assisted teaching involves a system of tutorials, games, and simulations in addition to drill activities (PPK, 1993; Jamaludin, 1989).

## Computers in Mathematics Education

The use of computers in the teaching of mathematics can further expand and enrich the topics taught. More than a century ago, NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1980) suggested that the teaching of mathematics takes advantage of the vast opportunities offered by computers. Cockcroft (1982) suggested that the use of computers in the teaching of mathematics can not only improve the quality of mathematics teaching but also the use of computers can change the importance of a topic in the mathematics syllabus. A similar situation may also exist in the teaching and learning of other subjects in schools. Problem solving activities are the most important part of mathematics education. High achievement in mathematics does not mean that a student is not able to do the problem-solving process. Cockcroft (1982) reports that mathematical problems must be translated into mathematical pronunciation and language before they can be solved. Such a translation step requires a complete understanding of the conceptual structure contained in the problem. This situation has caused learning difficulties among some students. These problems and difficulties can be overcome through the use of computers (Al Ghamdi, 1987; Lim, 1989).

In several studies that have been conducted (Funkhouser, 1993; Henderson and Landersman, 1992; Chazan, 1988; McCoy, 1991; Al Ghamdi, 1987) found:

- students who use computers in mathematics have a more positive attitude towards themselves as mathematicians and are able to solve more complex problems.
- Computer software used in the teaching process will be able to help students understand mathematical concepts and principles easily and effectively
- Student achievement in the final examination showed a significant improvement
- Computer-assisted learning groups have the ability to retain information over a longer period of time and are able to use it in other fields.

The slow and stunted development of CAI in mathematics education in particular, in the mid 70s to 80s was due to the high cost of computer hardware, the small number of software, low computer skills and knowledge and no less anxiety and lack of confidence among educators (PPK, 1993). However, the situation has changed, where the price of computers has decreased and can be bought by many people and various courses have been and are being organized by the ministry to provide awareness, confidence, knowledge, and skills in the use of computers.

In mathematics education, computers can play a role in performing the following activities

- Production of Curriculum Materials
- Drill
- Tutorial
- Review
- Recovery and Enrichment
- Simulation
- Calculation
- Learning aid
- Tutee

## Use of spreadsheets

There are many studies on the use of spreadsheets in mathematics teaching. Studies have suggested various ways of using spreadsheets in the teaching of mathematics (Janet, 1988; Lim, 1995; Fatimah & Munirah, 1995). There are also studies that suggest the use of spreadsheets can reduce conceptual errors on some mathematical concepts (Catterall and Lewis, 1985 in Fatimah & Munirah, 1995). Perhaps teachers in Malaysia can also use the spreadsheet in teaching mathematics while waiting for the appropriate CAI package.

## Use of multimedia

Multimedia is the latest information technology that allows the integration and manipulation of video, audio, text, graphics and animation (Baharuddin & Mohd, 1995). Computer-based multimedia can make the educational process a fun and exciting experience while helping students understand a concept quickly and easily (Brown & Bush, 1992; Toh & Ng, 1994; Rio & Kasiran, 1994; Baharuddin & Mohd, 1995). The use of multimedia plays an important role in mathematics education. Among them are multimedia can;

1. give students the opportunity to learn on their own based on their abilities.

2. facilitate and speed up the understanding of a mathematical concept.

3. make learning activities interesting and fun

4. provide more information and knowledge to students

5. help students repeat a lesson over and over again

## Internet usage

Internet or ‘International Network of Networks’ is an international computer network. It contains more than 50 thousand computer networks worldwide, more than 6.6 million host computers, and more than 50 million users from more than 160 countries (Zoraini, 1995). In the Internet network, there are millions of different types of resources. These resources include conference papers, magazine articles, computer software, photos, videos, and more. A teacher can get a lesson plan from another teacher or even from the computer that stores it. Or teaching resources such as maps, pictures from outer space, and so on can be found on the Internet.

On the Internet, there are more than 8 000 electronic discussion groups. This group may consist of a few people up to a few thousand people discussing the same thing, including about mathematics. Topics of discussion range from Anthropology to Zoology. For math teachers, there are several electronic discussion groups that can be joined for free. Among them; IMSE-L and MATHEDCC. Apart from electronic discussions, the WWW (World Wide Web) also provides various teaching and learning resources, especially in the field of mathematics (Zoraini, 1995; Lee, 1996)

Some titles that can be obtained from the WWW:

- Global Network Navigator – Mathematic
- Math Section
- Mathematics – Singapore Min of Education
- Math Launchpad
- Mathematics Archives – K12 Internet Sites
- K-8 and K-12 Mathematics Education
- Math and Numbers
- The Math Forum
- Ask Dr. Math
- Math Archives
- Internet Math Class
- Teachers and Students Forum – TM School On Line
- Training Notes and Questions (UPSR, PMR, and SPM) – TM School On Line

Recognizing the potential and capabilities of the Internet as an effective means of communication and electronic interaction, the Ministry of Education has taken steps to introduce the Internet to students and educators. With the cooperation and expert assistance from MIMOS, the Ministry of Education has launched the Education Network project (Sulaiman, 1996). In the implementation of this project, the Ministry of Education has:

- provide networking facilities and services to students and educators in schools and colleges
- train and guide teachers with the skills to use the facilities provided
- planning, implementing, and supervising various educational activities based on the use of extensive networks towards developing minds and knowledge while encouraging the implementation of various creative and innovative activities based on the information technology

All existing facilities should be fully utilized. The field of information technology which is part of the content of the course syllabus will provide an opportunity for trainee teachers to increase their knowledge and improve their skills in the use of computers, especially for teaching and learning activities. Furthermore today, there are various educational programs created and marketed, covering almost all levels.

## Closing

The use of computers in education is an initial step towards creating a technological society in line with the aspirations of Vision 2020. Educational institutions as the most important platform need to undergo changes in advance compared to other institutions towards achieving that goal. The potential and sophistication of technology need to be fully utilized.

To achieve the goals of education in Malaysia, a paradigm shift is needed in the way of thinking and the use of technology (Wan Zahid, 1996). Efforts need to be made and overall involvement needs to be done until we can afford them and produce something according to our own mold of thought, without leaning back and relying on others. As long as we are ‘consumers’, as long as we are not able to change anything.

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