Asee peer logo

Solving Problem Solving Problems: Solution Step Discipline

Download Paper |


2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Interdisciplinary Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1110.1 - 9.1110.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Brian Alenskis

Download Paper |

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

Session: 3150

Solving Problem-Solving Problems: Solution Step Discipline

Brian A. Alenskis Purdue University


Engineering and engineering technology are nothing if they are not problem solving. Yet after more than a decade of schooling, college freshmen typically arrive with insufficient expertise in assessing problems and producing orderly, mathematical solutions. Whether at an academic department level or by individual professor, college students are guided toward some structured problem solving method. Many problem solving methodologies deal well with the crucial aspects of problem assessment, analysis and solution planning. Yet even if students successfully evaluate the problems, they still struggle with executing and professionally presenting the mathematical steps of their solutions. The author has developed an elegantly concise, yet focused, approach to understanding and presenting these mathematical steps. Termed “Solution Step Discipline” (SSD), faculty for all engineering technology courses at Purdue University School of Technology’s Richmond location incorporated it in the Fall 2002 semester. Surprisingly, the straightforward approach has challenged the students—indicating that the focus remains on the truly key elements of structured thinking. With instructor feedback, students do master SSD, which in turn can enhance the effectiveness of most any overarching problem solving structure. Without a cumbersome number of students at the Richmond location, faculty members were able to uniformly implement Solution Step Discipline and better prepare students for academic success throughout their curricula.

Introduction (Given):

College and university faculty are charged with transforming incoming freshmen into graduate engineers and technologists. To this end, the faculty are traditionally provided students with over a decade of structured academic experience. Over those years, their teachers have intentionally prepared these students for the next level of their academic adventure. Their professors expect prepared freshmen to arrive with basic facts, foundational concepts, and critical skills.

However, freshmen usually lack the problem solving expertise needed for success in technical academics. Even after twelve years of preparation, students struggle to assess and solve problems that differ from elementary text examples. Memorization, rote procedures and calculator gymnastics have triumphed over conceptual understanding. College-level exercises

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Alenskis, B. (2004, June), Solving Problem Solving Problems: Solution Step Discipline Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13996

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: © 2004 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