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Ricardo Scucuglia R. da Silva, Lara Martins Barbosa, Marcelo C. Borba, & Andre Luis Andrejew Ferreira


The Use of Digital Technology to Estimate a Value of Pi: Teachers' Solutions on Squaring the Circle in a Graduate Course in Brazil

Keywords: Calculus; History of Mathematics; Humans-with-media; GPIMEM.

Abstract: In this research we investigate how mathematics teachers, as graduate students, estimate the value of π by exploring the problem of squaring the circle using digital technology. Initially, we mention some aspects of teaching and learning of cal- culus in the literature, emphasizing studies that use the notion of humans-with-media to highlight the role of technology in mathematical thinking and knowledge production. Insights on the history of mathematics in calculus are also discussed. We developed a qualitative study based on three different solutions created by groups of teachers using the software GeoGebra and Microsoft Excel. All the teachers' solutions improved the approximation (8/9)2 ≈ π/4, by determining p and q for (p/q)2 ≈ π/4. The first two solutions with GeoGebra emphasized experimentation and visualization, improving the approximation from one to three decimal places. The third solution with Excel pointed out the elaboration of a formula and improved it up to six decimal places. We emphasize how media shaped the strategies and solutions of the groups. Based on these solutions, we explore an approach for cubing the sphere, discussing approximations for π, highlighting the role of media in enhancing conceptual complexity in the solution of mathematical problems. The nature of the strategies for solving a problem is discussed, especially regarding different ways of thinking-with-technology developed by collectives of teachers-with-media. Although we acknowledge an alternative design for the proposed task, the exploration of problems using aspects of the his- tory of mathematics contributes to the state of the art concerning the studies in calculus developed by the Research Group on Technology, other Media, and Mathematics Education in Brazil. (Click here for article)