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VOL. 111 | NO. 74 | Wednesday, April 16, 1997

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Before the Internet, students could look to the familys set of encyclopedias for help with geography or history homework, but if the parents were not mathematically inclined, they may have been out of look with their calculus homework The Web as a math tutor Sites on the Internet are helping students all over the world with mathematics homework By CAMILLE H. GAMBLE The Daily News Before the Internet, students could look to the familyís set of encyclopedias for help with geography or history homework, but if the parents were not mathematically inclined, those students may have been out of luck with their linear algebra homework. Now, there are literally hundreds of Web sites on the Internet designed to help kindergarten to high school students, and even graduate students, with their homework. Searching in Yahoo under the word ìmathematicsî will bring up categories in math that range from applied mathematics to linear algebra to numerical analysis to academic papers on math topics. The math category in Yahoo titled ìeducationî is the best place to go for children in grades kindergarten through 12 who want to play math games or get help with problems. A site run by the Chinese International School (www.hk.super.net/~cismath), based in Hong Kong, offers math help online. Students and teachers at the school help people all over the world with math questions via e-mail. The CIS site also features puzzles, calculators, a math encyclopedia and links to more than 200 other math-related sites. In addition to several independent sites, there are a number of resource Web pages that feature links to hundreds of math sites. The Mathematics Resource Page at www.deakin.edu/au/~adag lists sites that cater to teachers and primary school students. Through a statewide program to hook up every public school in Tennessee to the Internet, area public school students are slowly learning the benefits of resources on the World Wide Web in the classroom. Grahamwood Elementary School principal Margaret Ware said there are three connections to the Internet at her school one in the library and two in CLUE classrooms. She said it is still new to the school, and students have limited use of the computers. ìI doubt that the Internet is being used a lot yet for math homework,î Ware said. ìWeíre getting there, though.î She said teachers do a lot on their own. ìThey do download lesson plans and look for things on the Internet,î she said. Ware did give an example of how Grahamwood, an optional city school, has used the Internet for math-related projects. She said a group of students worked with the librarian to do research on the Internet on world hunger for a food drive project. The students made a graph of the number of cans they collected. ìThey made a math problem out of it,î she said. ìThey had statistics on the amount of food that the agency gives out every year.î Ware said the school has plans to do more math research in the classroom via the Internet. ìWe are not doing as much of that yet as we are going to,î she said. Tammy Avanzi, who is head math teacher at Oak Forest Elementary School and teaches sixth grade, said she uses the Internet mainly to research data to be used in statistical projects. She said, for example, to make it fun, the class will follow the scoring during the year for Penny Hardaway and the Orlando Magic basketball team. The students gather the information from the Internet and apply it to mathematical problems. ìI havenít found too many math sites that were tutorial,î she said. Avanzi said one of the problems with using the tutorial sites is that the teachers donít have a lot of free time to research the Internet during the school day to find these sites. She said it involves finding the right site and bookmarking it on all the computers in the class. She said in an average class with 27 students, about four of them have Internet access at home. She added that any math sites the children can work on at home would help them in their schoolwork. ìIíd like to see a homework hot line on the Internet in the future,î Avanzi said. Elementary and middle school students arenít the only ones looking to the Internet for homework help. Some of the various Web sites for college students are as narrowed in scope, for example, as the site titled ìCalculus Applied to Probability and Statistics for Liberal Arts and Business Majors.î This site helps students understand how to use calculus in real-life situations. For example, a financial planning consultant at a neighborhood bank has a 22-year-old client who asks the following question: ìI would like to set up my own insurance policy by opening a trust account into which I can make monthly payments starting now, so that upon my death or my 95th birthday whichever comes sooner the trust can be expected to be worth $500,000. How much should I invest each month?î Assuming a 5 percent rate of return on investments, how should the consultant respond? To answer the question, the consultant must know something about the probability of the clientís dying at various ages. There are so many possible ages to consider that it would be easier to treat his age at death as a continuous variable, one that can take on any real value (between 22 and 95 in this case). The mathematics needed to do probability and statistics with continuous variables is calculus. The site helps the non-math student learn calculus in ways that will be used in a business or personal situation. This is just one of the ways the Internet can help students who are not math majors. The Math Forum at forum.swarthmore.edu is a great tool for young and old. It features sites divided up in categories such as arithmetic, pre-calculus, differential equations, algebra and geometry. The Math Forum offers numerous links to key issues in mathematics such as minorities and mathematics, job sites for math majors and information on ethical guidelines for the American Mathematical Society (www.ams.org).
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