This work examines the impact of the availability of symbolic calculators, such as Mathematica, on physics students. It appears that the students are more "free" to explore the mathematical solutions using different paths. However, the study concluded that the students appears to not be able to make the connection between the mathematics and the physical meaning of the mathematics.
The students show admirable flexibility and creativity as they try different calculation strategies and representational forms. Rather, the difficulties associated with Mathematica use appears to arise from more subtle issues. They arise from a local coherence in their thinking that leads them to focus on computational aspects of the problem while suppressing the connection with the physics and with extended mathematical meanings.
I got very fascinated with several of the transcripts of the conversation between the students as they struggle to solve physics problems. I just hope they knew they were being recorded. :)