Aspects of elementary number theory illustrated in the spreadsheet environment
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Number theory has in recent decades assumed a great practical importance, due primarily to its application to cryptography. This chapter discusses how elementary concepts of number theory may be illuminated and made accessible to upper secondary school students via appropriate spreadsheet models. In such environments, students can observe patterns, gain structural insight, form and test conjectures, and solve problems. The chapter begins by reviewing literature on the use of spreadsheets in general and the use of spreadsheets in number theory in particular. Two sample applications are then discussed. The first, factoring factorials, is presented and instructions are given to construct a model in Excel 2007. The second application, the RSA cryptosystem, is included because of its importance to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students. Number theoretic concepts relevant to RSA are discussed, and an outline of RSA. is given, with example. The chapter ends with instructions on how to construct a simple spreadsheet illustrating RSA.
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