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Factors influencing students' interactions with advanced calculators

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posted on 17.02.2017, 02:01 by Tan, Hazel
There is an increasing use of and rapid advancements in technologies in education. In particular, there is a take-up of advanced calculators (graphing calculators and calculators with computer algebra system [CAS]) in senior secondary high-stakes examinations. Each year, tens of thousands of students in Australia, Singapore, and other regions, use advanced calculators in mathematics examinations that directly affect their entry into tertiary education. Thus, it was pertinent to investigate the ways in which students use these technologies when learning mathematics, and the factors that influenced them. This study was built upon a bricolage of theories from various fields such as mathematics education, educational technology, learning theories, learning styles, and gender studies. From a review of the literature in the different fields, it was hypothesised that factors such as students’ gender, beliefs about and attitudes toward mathematics and technology, approaches to studying mathematics, and learning preferences, influence their ways of using technology. A mixed methods research design was used, consisting of two parts: a quantitative large scale online survey of 964 Singaporean and 176 Victorian senior secondary mathematics students, and a qualitative small scale study of nine students in a Singaporean school. There were several main results found in this study: (i) How students interact with advanced calculators was influenced by their beliefs about and attitudes toward mathematics and their approaches to studying mathematics. Students’ ways of knowing and learning mathematics best explained their ways of interacting with the calculator. (ii) Students' learning preferences were situated, and the use of advanced calculators was associated with visual and kinesthetic modes and a preference to work cooperatively. (iii) There were regional differences (in favour of Victorian students) in how students use the advanced calculators and their attitudes toward calculators. (iv) There were gender differences (in favour of males) in students' attitudes toward mathematics and advanced calculators, and how they used the calculators. Although there were more student factors with gender differences in the Singaporean than the Victorian data, the effect sizes were larger in the Victorian sample. The findings have implications for mathematics teaching practice, in that deep understanding, intrinsic interest, beliefs about the creative, inter-connectedness and contextual aspects of mathematics are associated with using calculators as a partner and collaborator for learning. Additionally, students tend to employ visual and kinaesthetic modes when learning how to use the calculators. Students were also found to have a preference for working on the calculator cooperatively with friends. Therefore, teachers can employ methods such as encouraging students to try out the calculator keys and to work cooperatively in groups when learning how to use the calculators. Another significant contribution of this study was in the use of Facebook to recruit participants. More research can be done on the participation and response rates associated with this recruitment method. Further research can also be conducted to translate the implications of the study into practical classroom strategies and to investigate longitudinally the dynamic interplay between these factors and students’ interactions with the advanced calculators.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Helen Forgasz

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Monash University. Faculty of Education. Education


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education