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Improving Student Understanding and Efficiency through Technology Use in the Differential Equations Classroom

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.720.1 - 23.720.8



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Paper Authors


Catherine Matos Clayton State University

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Dr. Catherine Matos is currently an associate professor of Mathematics at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia. She also serves as the Coordinator of Clayton State’s Dual Degree and Regents’ Engineering Transfer Programs with Georgia Tech. She received her bachelor's of Aerospace Engineering degree from Georgia Tech in 1994 and a Ph.D. in 2001. She recently completed a term serving as State Director for Georgia for the Southeastern Section of the Mathematical Association of America. She is a member of Tau Beta Pi and Phi Kappa Phi as well as the MAA.

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Tamara Pearson Clayton State University

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Dr. Tamara Pearson is currently an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia. She received her bachelors of science in Mathematics from Spelman College in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and instruction from the University of Florida in 2003.

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Improving Student Understanding and Efficiency through Technology Use in the Differential Equations ClassroomAbstractDifferential Equations (ODE) is a traditionally difficult course for students, with solutionprocesses that are often long and tedious. Additionally, the online course management systemsthat students have come to expect in pre-calculus and calculus sequences, along with theiradditional video and other resources, are generally not available. This means that students areheavily dependent on class time to help them understand the material for the course.Traditionally, there is a need to “fast-forward” over the tedious integrations and other basiccalculations that are often required for the solution process, in order to present a useful numberof examples. The author has implemented several strategies to help address these issues in herclassroom, including use of Maple in class and recording lectures on the computer via programssuch as TechSmith’s Camtasia.Our university is a small liberal-arts institute that has a strong emphasis on technology use.Enrollment in the Ordinary Differential Equations class is comprised of mathematics majors andstudents in our dual degree and transfer programs for engineering. A significant portion of thestudents are non-traditional and/or have substantial work obligations that they need to balancewith their coursework. This means that any class time missed by a student is especially difficultto catch up, as their time on campus often does not line up with instructor campus office hours.Maple has been a tool available to our ODE students for several years. Recently, we beganrequiring use of Maple in our Calculus sequence, so students are coming into the ODE coursewith some basic degree of knowledge of how to use Maple to solve algebraic equations, performintegrations, and similar manipulations. This has greatly facilitated more extensive use of theprogram in the ODE course. The author uses a mixture of Maple and traditional board work toset up, graph, and solve traditional differential equations and application problems. Using Maplein the lecture allows the instructor to quickly do required integrations, graphs, and algebraicmanipulations without having to skip steps for the sake of brevity. Traditional board work isdone on a TabletPC, which allows for the entire class lecture to be recorded and distributed to thestudent on the Internet. This enables the student to access the course lecture at any time, whichhas proven useful both for review and students who miss class. This approach is used forasynchronous instruction as well, allowing the instructor to develop targeted tutorials and answerstudent email questions with a more comprehensive explanation than is typically viable.This paper discusses the specifics of the strategies implemented. It will look at studentperformance data from recent semesters and compare against pre-existing data. Survey resultsfrom students outlining perceived usefulness of Maple and class recordings will be presented.Finally, suggestions for scaling the strategies for implementation in larger classes are provided.

Matos, C., & Pearson, T. (2013, June), Improving Student Understanding and Efficiency through Technology Use in the Differential Equations Classroom Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19734

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