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System Analysis Methodology for Teaching Algebra: A Foundation in Engineering Education

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Fundamental: Tools and Content for K-12 Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1451.1 - 26.1451.15



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Paper Authors


Jale F. Akyurtlu Hampton University

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Jale Akyurtlu is Endowed University Professor of Engineering at Hampton University. She has BS and MS degrees in Chemical Engineering from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey; and a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has research interests in chemical reaction engineering, catalysis, and the modeling of chemical reactors, mainly related to general energy and environmental research; and undergraduate education in nanotechnology, and engineering education in general. Her recent research is on hydrogen production from the catalytic reforming of higher hydrocarbons performed by funding from NASA and Army Research Office. She has also secured funding from National Science Foundation to introduce modules on nanotechnology in existing courses in science and engineering curricula. As the PI on a NSF-MSP funding (2011-2013), she worked with three school divisions in the Hampton Roads area in Virginia, to enhance the problem solving skills in algebra in secondary education by using an engineering approach. She received E.L. HAMM, SR. Distinguished Teaching Award Recipient at Hampton University in 2006 and Provost’s Academic Excellence Award in 2013.

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Otsebele E Nare Hampton University

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Otsebele Nare is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Hampton University, VA. He received his electrical engineering doctorate from Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD, in 2005. His research interests include System_Level Synthesis Techniques and K-16 Integrative STEM education.

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Lumumba Harnett University of Kansas

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Lumumba Harnett is an Electrical Engineering doctoral student in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department at University of Kansas and Graduate Research Assistant at KU’s Information and Telecommunication Technology Center. He received his BS in Electrical Engineering at Hampton University in Hampton, VA. While at Hampton, he participated in several research assistant positions with a focus in renewable energy and youth education. His research interest include radar and mobile communication signal processing.
Address: Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, Nichols Hall, 2335 Irving Hill Rd, Lawrence, KS 66045 Phone: (785) 864-7708 Email:

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System Analysis Methodology for Teaching Algebra: A Foundation in Engineering EducationThe public school system in Virginia is implementing more challenging standards andassessments to ensure that all of their graduates possess the knowledge and skills needed forsuccess in college and the workplace. One of the standards calls for increased rigor through anemphasis of solving multistep problems and applications. The implementation of this approachwill require a change of thinking in the way the teachers approach subject matter for preparingstudents to study engineering and other related fields. We proposed a ‘system analysis’approach as a model solution to address developing and teaching word problems in algebracourses beginning at the middle school level. The initial implementation of the approach wastested during teachers’ circle workshops and 2-week summer institutes for mathematics,technology, and art middle school teachers from three school divisions in the southeasternregion of Virginia. In addition, mathematics and engineering/technology faculty members fromcommunity colleges were also part of the institute.This paper focuses on the development of the system analysis approach for teaching algebrausing bridge design and shipping terminal design problems as applications. Our approachillustrates to teachers how to solve word problems algorithmically using equations andvariables, and how to teach this methodology to their students. This approach takes the designand/or problem-solving process from a blind-folded endeavor to a systematic, efficient process.It demonstrates how an engineering methodology can be applied effectively in K-12 education.It focuses on teachers gaining deeper understanding in representing a problem and itsconstraints by systems of equations and/or inequalities, and interpret solutions as viable ornonviable options in a modeling context; rearranging formulas to highlight a quantity ofinterest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations; and understanding solving equationsas a process of reasoning and explaining the reasoning as required by the algebra standards oflearning. As a result of the program, the teachers could teach their students the differencebetween true problem solving and the trial-and-error approach.Several assessment tools were administered for the evaluation of the summer institutes andthe teachers’ circles, namely, Questionnaire for Evaluation of Teachers’ Circles before the startof the Summer Institute, Pre- and Post- Surveys for the Evaluation of the Summer Institutes,and Daily Content and Inquiry reflections. The results from these tools indicated that theteachers exhibited significant changes in their confidence in demonstrating examples on theuse of critical thinking skills, and actually providing opportunities to solve problems relating toreal life situations.

Akyurtlu, J. F., & Nare, O. E., & Harnett, L. (2015, June), System Analysis Methodology for Teaching Algebra: A Foundation in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24788

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