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Abstract

Xiaoxu Han teaches linear algebra. In his quest to innovate his class, he has explored using a computer software package to do the calculations for students and remove some of the tedious algebra and arithmetic that often lead to minor math errors when working with matrices. Moreover, the software packages become necessary when matrices become too large to be solved by hand. Xiaoxu’s project involved incorporating MATLAB, his software of choice, into his course and examining the students’ perceptions of how much using this program helped them to learn the course material. His first-stage analysis focused largely on student reports of their satisfaction with this curricular innovation. Xiaoxu discovered that, by and large, his students were pleased with MATLAB. However, upon more closely examining the data, he found that his stronger students (those who earned A’s in the class) tended to like this program less that did students who earned lower grades. Xiaoxu uses the students’ own words to explore the determinants of their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with MATLAB and from there attempts to explore grade-based disparity. This discussion leads him to some interesting ideas about next stages in his teaching this course and, hopefully, in continuing this scholarly project.

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