This paper describes and evaluates an effort to improve first-year college math students’ ability to quantitatively setup a mathematical model given an ill-defined problem. Six specific assignments were created for a treatment group of 70 students as part of a course of 250 students. Grade and survey data were collected throughout the semester. We find that instructors can place additional, useful emphasis on this initial modeling step with no loss in students’ performance on course-wide graded events.
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