This year marked the 16th International Conference of the Mathematics Education of the Future Project: Building on the Past to Prepare for the Future, held at King’s College, Cambridge University, UK. Attended by over 200 people from 24 countries and all six continents, this conference brings together researchers in math education from all over the world to share best practices and research discoveries in pedagogy that are focused on building innovative problem solvers. Institute for STEM Education faculty Ben Galluzzo and Katie Kavanagh gave a two-part workshop on how to facilitate math modeling experiences.
Mathematical modeling refers to the process of creating a mathematical representation of a real-world scenario to make a prediction or provide insight. There is a distinction between applying a formula and the actual creation of a mathematical relationship. Approaching open-ended problems can be challenging for students, who are not offered many opportunities to think in this way. Moreover, teachers and professors often lack the confidence and experience to incorporate open-ended questions in mathematics courses because students can approach finding solutions in a range of possible directions.
In the workshop, participants analyzed real examples of when students went off-track while creating models, in particular making choices or assumptions that undermined the solution quality. Galluzzo and Kavanagh demonstrated how to facilitate authentic math modeling so that students can be creative and innovative in the modeling process while having ownership over their solution. Participants assessed real student modeling solutions from Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics’ award-winning scholarship program, awarding high school students for great modeling work since 2006, called MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge - more information at https://m3challenge.siam.org/). Finally, participants shared ways that they would advise teams towards improvement.
“SIAM’s M3 Challenge program poses big problems about real issues to young people each year, demonstrating vividly the importance and value of math applications in our lives,” said Michelle Montgomery, M3 Challenge Program Director at SIAM. “Students are challenged to form teams and quantify a problem, develop a model to provide insight and see if it makes sense. Some teams do well, some teams make good efforts, and many teams struggle. This workshop went a long way with helping lots of educators, and by extension, their students, feel comfortable with the process.”
Galluzzo and Kavanagh were supported by the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge) and SIAM to develop and present the workshop. They led a problem development session after the workshop to generate problems for the international SIAM M3 Challenge, which poses an authentic, open-ended question to teams of juniors and seniors in the US and sixth-form students in the UK to compete for big scholarships. Clarkson community members and researchers should consider submitting their own ideas for the challenge: https://m3challenge.siam.org/challenge/suggest-problems