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Interactive Java Applet For Equation Derivations

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.635.1 - 6.635.8

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Paper Authors

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Kenneth Manning

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Luke Bellandi

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

Session 1520

Interactive Java Applet for Equation Derivations

Kenneth S. Manning, Ph.D. and Luke B. Bellandi Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


The Equation Activity applet, developed by Project Links at Rensselaer, is an engaging and interactive tool that allows instructors to guide students through the steps in deriving a particular equation. Project Links, an NSF-supported project at Rensselaer, is a cooperative effort by faculty from several departments, schools, and institutions to develop materials linking mathematical topics with their applications in engineering and science. The primary product of this effort is a set of interactive, web-based learning modules that rely heavily on hypertext, animations, and interactive Java applets.

Through the Equation Activity, the instructor gives students enough information to derive a particular equation. The student’s response is then evaluated by use of a semi-intelligent algorithm that recognizes association, commutativity, distribution, implicit multiplication, legal re-ordering of terms (flipping about the equals signs), and unlimited legal use of parentheses.

The instructor specifies the particular terms, variables, operators, and constants for use by the student on a customizable keypad. This keypad can vary as the derivation steps progress, reflecting new information gained. The path to the desired equation is broken into several steps, allowing the student to progressively work toward the final equation. For each step in the activity, the instructor, using text and equations, specifies the steps to take to obtain the next intermediary equation. Hints can be supplied to the student who enters a wrong or inappropriate equation. Once the student has produced the proper equation for a step, that equation is saved and can be reviewed by the students as they work on subsequent steps. This process iterates until the final equation has been reached.

The applet is easily modified and added to existing courseware.


Project Links1 is a five-year, NSF supported undertaking to develop web-based interactive modules that integrate mathematical concepts with contemporary topics in science and engineering. The project is based at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with collaboration from

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Manning, K., & Bellandi, L. (2001, June), Interactive Java Applet For Equation Derivations Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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