Students' Feedback on Teaching Mathematics Through The Calculational Method


This paper describes a study conducted at the University of Nottingham, whose goal was to assess whether the students registered on the first-year module “Mathematics for Computer Scientists” appreciate the calculational method. The study consisted of two parts: “Proof Reading” and “Problem Solving”. The goal of “Proof Reading” was to determine what the students think of calculational proofs, compared with more conventional ones, and which are easier to verify; we also assessed how their opinions changed during the term. The purpose of “Problem Solving” was to determine if the methods taught have influenced the students’ problem-solving skills. Frequent criticisms of our approach are that we are too formal and that the emphasis on syntactic manipulation hinders students’ understanding. Nevertheless, the results show that most students prefer or understand better the calculational proofs. On the other hand, regarding the problem-solving questions, we observed that, in general, the students maintained their original solutions.

In Frontiers in Education 2009


  • 26 June 2009: uploaded the paper
  • 15 May 2009: submitted the final version to FiE 2009
  • 24 April 2009: notification of the acceptance
  • 23 March 2009: submitted the paper to FiE 2009
Alexandra Mendes
Assistant Professor

My research focuses on innovative user interfaces for formal methods and mathematical approaches to software quality. More recently, I started work on usable security, in particular on the impact of formal verification on the use and adoption of formally verified security software product. Much of my most recent work overlaps with the area of software engineering. I am also interested on innovative and fun ways to teach Computer Science. For more details, see selected publications and some of my projects. Follow me on Twitter or add me on LinkedIn.