Category Archives: Projects

Alternate Technology Assignment for Medical Insurance Project


I get more interest in the medical insurance projects than any other project on this website. I use two different versions of the project in my classes. In College Algebra, I use the Medical Insurance 2 Project. I have student compare two different plans to decide which is cheaper. In Business Calculus, I use the Medical Insurance 3 Project where students model an insurance plan and prove it is continuous. These project share a number of technology assignments. The second one that students complete is Technology Assignment: Calculate the Total Annual Cost (DOC | PDF). For my students, this is usually the hardest assignment of the semester. It is a collision between insurance terminology (which they have no clue about) and Excel (which they also have no clue about). To find a model more efficiently, I needed to tone down the Excel component and ramp up the insurance component. Continue reading Alternate Technology Assignment for Medical Insurance Project

AMATYC Presentation in Jacksonville

I am giving a presentation, “Introductory Projects in College Algebra and Calculus: Pulling It Off“, at the AMATYC Conference in Jacksonville. This presentation will take place on Saturday from 2:30 to 3:20PM. I will be talking about two projects, College Costs 2 and Medical Insurance 3.

I use the College Costs 2 project as the first project in College Algebra. Medical Insurance 3 is the first project in Survey of Calculus. Because these are first projects, students need many scaffolding resources in the form of technology assignments. The links above contain all of the technology assignments for these projects. They are administered over a five-week period at the beginning of the semester. Continue reading AMATYC Presentation in Jacksonville

College Costs 2 Project


The first project of the semester is incredibly important. It sets the tone for the entire semester. If a student completes it successfully, they will do well for the rest of the semester. A good solution instills a great deal of confidence in a student.

This semester, I decided it was time for a new first project. In earlier semesters, I have used the Medical Insurance project or the Gas Prices project as the first project. Each of these projects covers linear equations in some form. However, I wanted a more basic project to start the semester. Something I can use to apply linear equations and teach Excel.

The College Costs 2 project accomplishes these goals. In this project, each student is assigned average college cost data from a state. Students are either assigned data for the average cost of four-year public and two-year institutions or four-year private and two-year institutions. Using the data, students construct a linear model of the data and use it to calculate how much is saved by attending the two-year college during a four-year college career.
Continue reading College Costs 2 Project

How to Develop Student Projects – ICTCM 2012


The past few days I have been in Orlando attending . For college mathematics faculty who teach using technology, it doesn’t get any better than this.

I gave a talk earlier today on how to develop a student project. In this session, I discussed the Medical Insurance 2 project and the associated technology assignments.

In the video above, I also discuss some of the logistics of administering a project like the Medical Insurance 2. It is a quick (25 minute) trip through the slides in my session at ICTCM.

Updates to the Medical Insurance Project

I have been absent from this page for a while. Over the winter break and throughout the beginning of the semester I have been updating the Medical Insurance Project and adapting it for my calculus class. In addition, I have a new project for college algebra on college costs. In this post I want to outline the changes I have made to the Medical Insurance Project.


Last semester, my students struggled with taking their plan details and creating a table of charges and costs. It seemed like they needed an intermediate step between entering the plan details in Excel and creating the table in Excel. In addition, creating models for two plans was quite a bit of work. To help mitigate these troubles, I have rewritten the project and named it Medical Insurance 2. This project includes a new technology assignment, Find and Understand Costs, where they fill out a table of charges and costs by hand. This forces them to confront the unfamiliar terms before they ever begin their cost calculations in Excel. Instead of finding two insurance plans to model, they only find one plan and compare it to the Basic Plus Plan. They should simplify the project a bit, but still preserve the same solution strategy.

In Medical Insurance 3, calculus students choose a health plan and model it with a piecewise linear function. Using three technology assignments, they complete the same strategy as college algebra students complete in Medical Insurance 2. Once they have their model, they use the definition of continuity to prove that it is continuous. This amounts to proving that the function is continuous at the charge where the deductible is met and the charge where the out of pocket maximum is reached. Great example of continuity in a real world context.

Both of these project utilize similar technology assignments. Since these assignments take some effort to create, reusing them makes better use of my time. My college algebra students are currently completing Medical Insurance 2. My business calculus students completed Medical Insurance 3 as their first project of the Spring semester. All of the students are frustrated with the non-mathematical content. This keeps me very busy in office hours and answering many emails each day. However, I get a lot of feedback about how important they think it is to understand all of this. After all, the debate over health care in the US and how to pay for it is far from over. Maybe these projects can do a small part to contribute to better understanding of the issues for my students.