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Live Problem Solving Via Computer In The Classroom To Avoid "Death By Powerpoint"

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1023.1 - 12.1023.14



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Paper Authors

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Michael Cutlip University of Connecticut

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Mordechai Shacham Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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Michael Elly Intel Corp.

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

Live Problem Solving via Computer in the Classroom to Avoid "Death by PowerPoint" Introduction

Extensive use of the computer for primarily presentations in class, such as the review of PowerPoint™ notes for example, may have many undesired effects: 1) The attendance in the class session may drop as students have access to copies of the presentation in the course web site. 2) The class may become mind-numbing for students who have studied the material, and the pace may be too fast for students who did not. 3) The students may not appreciate the knowledge of the instructor as he/she only "repeats what is already written on the slides". Felder and Brent[3] have described the undesired effects of the computer use in class as "Death by PowerPoint" and cautioned against the excessive use of pre-prepared PowerPoint visuals for teaching.

Fortunately, there are uses of the computer in teaching in addition to PowerPoint presentations that can be very beneficial in the classroom. A good example is the use of a personal computer for live demonstrations in the classroom for numerical problem solving. One successful scenario is to first discuss the principles and assumptions for a particular problem, and then to develop the mathematical model of the problem on the chalkboard (or a tablet PC). The model can then be entered into the computer in front of the class (or be preprogrammed), and the problem can then be immediately solved using a mathematical software package. Graphical and tabular presentation of the results can serve as the basis to critical analysis and discussion of these results. Questions can then be asked in class regarding the model and expected results when parameters are changed or the model further refined. The resulting model can then be solved in class with the results serving as a basis for further discussion.

In this paper three examples are presented. In these examples a pre-prepared definition of a practical problem is presented and explained. The algorithm and the equations required for the solution are developed in a live demonstration by on a chalkboard or a tablet PC. The problem is then solved using the software packages Polymath© (copyrighted by Polymath Software, ), MATLAB™ (trademark of MathWorks, Inc., or Excel™ (trademark of Microsoft Corporation, During the live demonstration, the results are discussed and parametric studies are carried out.

Example 1 – Solving a Two Point Boundary Value Problem with the Newton-Raphson Method (Shooting Method5) Mathematical Model of the Problem and Explanation of the Need for Iterative Solution

This problem (Cutlip and Shacham[1]) involves the calculation of the concentration profiles and molar fluxes in simultaneous multi-component diffusion of gases. Gases A and B are diffusing through stagnant gas C. There is multicomponent molecular diffusion between two points where the compositions and distance apart are known. The model of the problem and the special numerical data are shown in Table 1. The problem is specified in a format that is also appropriate as Polymath input file for the solution. The Polymath input coding with the comments (marked by #) provide a compete definition and clear documentation of the model.

Cutlip, M., & Shacham, M., & Elly, M. (2007, June), Live Problem Solving Via Computer In The Classroom To Avoid "Death By Powerpoint" Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2368

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