Asee peer logo

Elements of Good Problem-solving Tasks in Thinking Classrooms

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 1: Best Practices in Engineering Math Education

Tagged Division


Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Nathaniel Rossi Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Nathaniel Rossi is an undergraduate student studying for a B.S in Mechanical Engineering Systems at Arizona State University.

visit author page


Adam R. Carberry Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Adam Carberry is an associate professor at Arizona State University in the Fulton Schools of Engineering Polytechnic School. He earned a B.S. in Materials Science Engineering from Alfred University, and received his M.S. and Ph.D., both from Tufts University, in Chemistry and Engineering Education respectively. His research investigates the development of new classroom innovations, assessment techniques, and identifying new ways to empirically understand how engineering students and educators learn. He is currently the chair of the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN) and an associate editor for the Journal of Engineering Educaiton (JEE). Prior to joining ASU he was a graduate student research assistant at the Tufts’ Center for Engineering Education and Outreach.

visit author page

author page

Scott Adamson Chandler-Gilbert Community College

Download Paper |


Engineering is an interdisciplinary field that requires extensive knowledge of STEM topics. The ability to apply mathematical concepts in engineering applications is no exception. Some undergraduate engineering students struggle with early course work typically entrenched in learning underlying mathematics. This is due to students finding it difficult to make connections and apply mathematics outside of routine computational calculations.

Traditional instruction of mathematics has relied predominantly on teacher-centered pedagogies or passive learning (e.g lecture). Active learning differs in that it includes student-centered approaches and has been shown to increase student understanding in STEM courses.

The purpose of this study is to explore and discover what elements lead to good problem-solving tasks in an active learning mathematics focused classroom. Elements were determined using interviews with mathematics instructors that currently use active learning techniques and problem-solving tasks in their classrooms. An instructor’s guidebook will be created and made available based on the findings and discoveries of this study on how to create problem-solving tasks.

The three main categories of emergent themes were task structure, task development, and problem-solving environment. The emergent themes in task structure are useful for understanding what elements make a good problem-solving task. Knowing the particular challenges previous instructors faced in creating an active-learning environment will help instructors avoid common pitfalls. These elements of creating a problem-solving environment will also be included in the guidebook as a class cannot have good problem-solving tasks without an environment conducive to active learning.

Rossi, N., & Carberry, A. R., & Adamson, S. (2020, June), Elements of Good Problem-solving Tasks in Thinking Classrooms Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34516

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015