Every student should have access to a CAS (Computer Algebra System) in a handheld and/or computer-based format at least as early as he or she begins learning algebraic concepts.

Used properly, a CAS creates a dynamic laboratory environment for a student in which he or she can explore algebraic relationships, receive instantaneous confirmation of the validity of algebraic manipulations, and scaffolding for deeper exploration and understanding of mathematics. In short, a CAS enables a student to have a mathematical solving expert available at all times in all places. Most importantly, students get the opportunity to explore mathematics without needing

Of course, to use a CAS, one needs to learn how to ask questions and how to interpret the solutions. A CAS will always provide an answer to the question asked. Users *must* know precisely what is being asked so that they can interpret their results.

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Recently, I wrote about a CAS computer program called Microsoft Maths. It’s available for free from the Microsoft website and includes worked solutions from the input equations. More info: http://linearfix.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/microsoft-mathematics-solves-equations-with-explanations/

I’m always open to any tool students could use to enhance learning, and commend what I see in a cursory glance at Microsoft Maths. That said, I still believe that nothing comes close to the power, flexibility, and utility of Wolfram Alpha (http://www.wolframalpha.com/).

“Of course, to use a CAS, one needs to learn how to ask questions and how to interpret the solutions”Isn’t this what we should be teaching? How often do we (all learners) miss the question and several solutions because we are mired in the details of the event or exercise.

It is time to stop talking about how young learners are using CAS incorrectly; we should help them master how to use it FOR learning.