"I've previously taken regular calculus classes with engineers and wondered what would the classes ever be useful for," said Kate Coyle, a biology major who completed the Dynamics class and graduated this semester. "Labs I've had in biology and physics show you the protocol and the expected result.
"This is not the same, at all. We were solving real problems every day."
Students work through problems using an online interactive textbook, Dynamics of Biological Systems: A Modeling Manual Chiel wrote and the computer programming language Mathematica, which scientists worldwide rely on to build mathematical models of complex systems. Chiel's book is available free to students as well as teachers who may want to use it as is or as a model for their own classes.
When teams become stuck on a problem, ,Chiel or a teaching assistant makes suggestions, gives clues and tries to coax out the answer. After success, teachers quiz individuals about how they found the solution and what they'd learned.
The class of 30 is spread out among hexagonal tables. Teams power up their laptops and go to work. Each day the teachers rotate to a different group of students, and after each class they compare notes on who has mastered the skills and who needs extra help, Gill said.
When the second half of the semester begins, teams choose a mathematical model that was recently published in a scientific journal, begin reconstructing and analyzing it and then writing in detail what they learn. The students then extend the model to answer new questions that they ask themselves, and write up results as if they were writing for a scientific journal.
Coyle and her teammates Valencia Williams and Joshua DeRivera focused on a pa
|Contact: Kevin Mayhood|
Case Western Reserve University