HOT TOPIC: JAVA Math Applications
Volume 1, Issue 1 - September 5, 2004

"The last quarter of the twentieth century marked a shift in math pedagogy, moving towards concrete, experiential methods which allowed students to conceptually understand the processes that take place behind the mathematical operations we had emphasized over previous generations. Accurate calculations are the goal, but knowing what the numbers represent and how you arrive at the answers is equally important. With this prevailing conviction, educators around the world began filling their classrooms with activity centers and plastic tubs full of manipulatives students could use to make sense of the ideas behind the abstract symbols of math.

At about the same time, micro computing was taking form and within twenty years the Internet was available to schools and households. Companies such as the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) began developing software which allowed students to manipulate shapes and symbols to understand how and why math worked. The original 5¼ “ floppy disks gave way to the more durable 3½” disks, and then to CD ROM disks, but nothing changed the delivery of digital math instruction like the Internet.

For the first time, math tasks could be delivered across a common medium regardless of your computer platform. And as browsers advanced from Mosaic and Mozilla to Navigator and Internet Explorer, the possibilities expanded exponentially. Enter James Gosling circa 1994. Working on the Green project at Sun Microsystems, he is credited with having developed the JAVA programming language. JAVA applications run in applets – small scripts built right into a web page. The JAVA program is downloaded and executed by Java-enabled Web browsers and is usually small in size with a quick download time……and it’s typically free!

While JAVA can be used for web site password authentication and other more high-end applications, it can also be used to create interactive, manipulative visual activities which react to student input and model important concepts from all areas of mathematics. The question becomes: 'Can these virtual concrete experiences deliver the same degree of understanding as the hands-on experiences teachers have become so accustomed to using in math instruction?' ....."


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©2005 Walter McKenzie

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