In the College Algebra course taught at Yavapai College, modeling data with different types of functions is a key focus. So the projects I use in my class utilize the same data and question. As noted in Part 1 of this post, the goal of this series of project is easy to understand.

If you spend your first two years of college in a two-year college instead of a four-year college, how much would you save?

In the first project based on this question, a linear model is found for the data in the project. In subsequent projects, nonlinear models are calculated from the data.

Over the past several semesters, I have developed a series of student projects that I use in College Algebra and Finite Mathematics. These projects incorporate a large number of the learning objectives in these courses. They require students to apply these learning objectives to a real world problem over a significant portion of the semester. My use of projects like these are based on research coming out of the field of neuroscience. Many of these results are summarized nicely in the book Making It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel. In this book, the authors point out that many of the strategies students use to study, like rereading a text or massed practice, are not very productive. They give the illusion of mastery and result in learning that is not very durable. As the authors put it,

Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful. Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow.

Using student projects is definitely effortful since it requires students to apply basic mathematical concepts to a problem with no unique solution. It helps them to distill the key parts of a problem and to put it into a mathematical framework. Since this framework is sustained over several projects, additional knowledge is acquired and organized in the brain so that new information is consistent with prior information. Continue reading →

Populations are often described by their doubling times. The doubling time is the amount of time it takes a population to double. We can calculate the doubling time of an increasing exponential model by examining its graph carefully. Since students seem to enjoy themodel for population growth on Gilligan’s Island, I like to use it to illustrate doubling in an exponential function. Continue reading →

Last week the students in my College Algebra started exponential functions. They got started on the basics of exponential graphs, when they are increasing and decreasing, and exponentials with a base e. With these basics completed, they are working on an Applications Quiz this week. To get them started on this material, I introduced an application based on Gilligan’s Island.