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If All I Had Were A Hammer: On The Use Of Labview In Teaching Differential Equations

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

The Use of Technology in Teaching Math

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.649.1 - 8.649.13



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Paper Authors

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Murat Tanyel

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1665

IF ALL I HAD WERE A HAMMER… On the Use of LabVIEW in Teaching Differential Equations

Murat Tanyel Dordt College


The standard computer tool that is used in teaching differential equations is Derive ™, Maple™, Mathematica® or even MATLAB®. However, when I was asked to teach Differential Equations (Diff. Eq.), my immediate choice for demonstrations did not employ one of these standard packages, but LabVIEW, which I use in my Digital Signal Processing and Communications Systems courses1-3. The first part of this paper will provide an explanation as to why I chose this particular package for my demonstrations in Diff. Eq. with specific reference to the aesthetic aspect of the choice4. The second part of the paper will describe the toolkit I developed in LabVIEW for the Diff. Eq. class. Examples of in-class demonstrations will be provided including a demonstration of “statistical exponential decay” with discussion on the most appropriate statistical analysis of the data generated through this demonstration.

I. Introduction

The title of this paper is taken from the saying, “If all I had were a hammer, everything would look like nails to me.” The saying suggests that one’s assessment of a problem is influenced by the tools one has available. I have chosen this title because of my almost instinctive reaction to the challenge of providing a numerical solver for the differential equations course I taught in the Fall of 2002. The preface of the textbook 5 that I chose mentions MATLAB, Maple or Mathematica as likely candidates. The proper choice would be a symbolic algebra package. I resort to Maple for my own symbolic manipulation needs. This choice is influenced by my prior experience on a different campus6 but the standard package on this campus is Derive. The textbook, on the other hand, leaves the choice of the numerical solver to the reader and informs that it would be adequate if it can i) plot direction fields, ii) calculate numerical solutions of differential equations and iii) plot these solutions. As I was contemplating the use of MATLAB as the compromise solution, my personal preference of LabVIEW dared me to use this package for my first numerical example. That started a trend which became hard to break.

This paper will report on the use of this unusual tool in the Diff. Eq. class. Section II will describe LabVIEW briefly and seek to provide an explanation for my preference for LabVIEW from an engineering aesthetic point of view. Section III will survey its mathematical functions.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Tanyel, M. (2003, June), If All I Had Were A Hammer: On The Use Of Labview In Teaching Differential Equations Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11382

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