Using Mathematical Modelling to Provide Students with a Contextual Learning Experience of Differential Equations
Gaining useful insight into real-world problems through mathematical modelling is a valued activity across several disciplines including mathematics, biology, computer science and engineering. Differential equations are a valuable tool used in modelling. Modelling provides a way for students to engage with differential equations within a contextual environment. Teaching mathematics in context has the potential of giving students something to anchor the mathematics to and hence act as cognitive roots With this in mind, in what ways can lecturers use mathematical modelling to provide students with contextual learning experiences of differential equations? A New Zealand study was carried out involving three case studies. Each case study comprised of a mathematical modelling course, lecturer participant and student participants. Modelling examples and activities that involved differential equations were part of all course content. In this paper, I will present information on each course, the main modelling activities each course used, and examples of students' use of differential equations for these activities. Insights discovered into the common practices of the three lecturers regarding using mathematical modelling to teach differential equations will also be presented.