A Computer Algebra Primer and Homework Exercises for use in an Intermediate Macroeconomics Courseâ€”A Student/Teacher Collaboration
This paper details some of the results of a student/teacher collaboration to develop computer algebra materials for use by students in an intermediate macroeconomics course. Many years ago the teacher required students solve macro models using a pencil and paper. For the most part these models were linear ISâ€”LM models. One problem that arose with the pencil and paper solution is that introducing slight modifications to the model could require substantial solution time on the part of the students. This tended to reduce the complexity and sophistication of the models considered. Computer algebra systems have certain advantages. They can produce symbolic solutions as well as numerical solutions. Symbolic solutions are often presented in textbooks giving students some confidence that the solutions really are valid. The teacher also found that using a CAS was far more efficient in a lecture than solving models on a blackboard. The teacher wrote a primer discussing the features of the CAS that the students would need to complete projects given in the class as well as a series of classroom exercises. For the most part the exercises only required that the students copy the program, change parameters or exogenous variables and discuss the results of the changes. The teacher discussed the value of the exercises with a number of students after the semester ended and found that they thought the exercises were too easy. The teacher succeeded in getting one student to enroll in an independent study class to revise the primer and to reconstruct the exercise so they would be more meaningful to the students. The choice of a CAS is considered, followed by a discussion of the prevalence of CASs in various disciplines, followed by the primer, then the exercises and lastly, some example lecture notes created using a CAS.
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