The electronic digital computer has been in existence for approximately three decades. During this short period of time it has become a mayor tool of progress that has touched every facet of our lives. The computer is everywhere. Hospitals use the computer to record birth and other medical records. Schools use the computer to assign students to course sections and to record grades. Businesses use the computer to calculate wages and to write paychecks. Municipal governments use the computer to keep tax records. Banks use the computer to calculate interest and to balance accounts. Department stores, utility companies, and credit and loan agencies use the computer to compile bills. Airlines, theaters and hotels use the computer to reserve tickets and rooms.
Extensive use of the computer has created a new industry that employs large masses of people. Thus, the present generation of school children must be educated to be able to fill the new and different job market. In the large urban high school limited facilities make it impossible for all students to enroll in a formal computer programming course. Yet, all students should have the opportunity to see how a computer works even if they do not enter the field. This unit of study will present an alternate method of acquainting young people with the computer. It will introduce some simple computer programming techniques in an informal manner to the students in the traditional classroom.
The mathematical topic included in the unit will be area of plane figures. The unit will begin by clearly derived to find the area of a rectangle, parallelogram, square, triangle, and trapezoid. The formulas then will be applied in the solution of problems. Sample problems with model solutions will be given. Exercises for practice consisting of problems of varying degrees of difficulty, will be written in the BASIC language to enable students to calculate areas of plane figures by using the computer. Each program will introduce a new technique, yet it will be simple enough to be presented informally and to be understood by any student who has no prior knowledge of computers or programming.
The material developed here may be used at several levels of instruction for the following purposes: (1) to teach the concept of area along with simple computer programming to middle school students, (2) to reinforce the concept of area and to introduce simple computer programming techniques to students enrolled in applied mathematics, consumer mathematics and basic geometry courses in the high school, (3) to teach the concept of area and computer programming in greater detail to high school students enrolled in a college preparatory geometry course.
The unit is not intended to be a complete course in computer programming, but merely an informal introduction to it in a traditional mathematics classroom setting. Hopefully, the unit will ignite a spark of interest and arouse the curiosity of the students. They will be encouraged to explore the field in greater depth by visiting nearby computer centers, watching how the computer is used, and talking with the people who run it.