Mathematical Modeling: Math 442

Articles about this course

Teaching Writing in a Mathematical Modeling Course
Citation: Jean Marie Linhart, 2014. Teaching writing and communication in a mathematical modeling course. PRIMUS, 24(7): 594-607.

Sample Course Materials

Syllabus/First Day Handout
LaTeXercises
Writing-to-learn assignment about mathematical modeling
First MATLAB Assignment
Project 1: Chaos and the Lorenz Attractor
Project 2: Population Modeling
Final Portfolio

Final Project Options:

Project Zombie
Phytoplankton Modeling
Efficient Portfolio Frontier Project

This is a project-based course in mathematical modeling. Students work through three projects over the course of the semester. Two projects,the Lorenz Attractor and Population modeling are done by the entire class. Individual students or groups of students may create a final project or may choose one of the project options that I have prepared.

Students do extensive writing in the course, and all students give a 10 minute presentation, generally on the final project.

One surprise for me is how much teaching writing has improved my own writing. I have advice I give my students. If I expect them to listen to me, I have to listen to myself, or I become a hypocrite. Likewise, my presentations have gotten better since I started mentoring giving presentations.

Giving presentations can be intimidating for many students. This last time, I tried to make it a better experience for everyone by handing out small slips of paper. Each audience member put down their own name, made note of the things the presenter did well (no criticisms), and wrote down their questions about the presentation. First, this resulted in a lot more discussion of the presentations, because students were writing down their questions. Second, after the questions, we had to say what the presenter did well. Third, we gave the presenter the little pieces of paper so they would know, in particular, what they did well.

Here’s one student’s feedback about this from a final portfolio letter:

My favorite moment from the semester came after my Final Project presentation. … After my presentation, I was really down on myself. I got very nervous while presenting, missed points that I wanted to make, failed to answer questions that I knew the answer to, and on top of this I had gotten very little sleep the night before. When I got back to my seat, the little slips of paper were sitting there. Reading them absolutely turned my day around. While I cannot pinpoint an exact lesson I learned here, I can tell you that I really appreciate all of the effort you took to make this class a positive and enjoyable environment for everyone. I learned that a professor that really cares about creating a welcoming environment can make all the difference.

Student awards from this course:

  • Daniel Miller and Andy Cho both had articles accepted to Texas A&M University’s research journal Explorations.
  • Andy Cho won first prize for his poster on the Zombie Apocalypse at Student Research week.
  • Daniel Miller went on to write an undergraduate thesis on his project, winning an honorable mention for best undergraduate STEM thesis at Texas A&M
  • Frances Withrow won the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) award at MathFest 2012 for her presentation on her modeling work from Project Zombie.
  • Kathleen Karika presented her final project on significant scientific research on the international space station at MathFest
  • Daniel Miller presented his thesis research on powering your hot water heater using solar energy at MathFest winning the 2013 SIAM award

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