PSU McNair Scholars Online Journal


Mathematical models, Differential equations, Mathematics -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- United States


This paper presents the results of an in-depth analysis of student responses to a differential equations modeling problem administered as part of an international comparison study. The international study compared students' skills and understandings in an inquiry-oriented approach to the teaching and learning of differential equations (project classes) to other traditional approaches (comparison classes). The guiding question of the research was to identify why United States comparison students fared better overall than project students on a routine modeling problem. To answer the research question a tripartite coding scheme was developed. The coding scheme illustrated that project students were failing to: (1) initiate a correct model of the problem, (2) understand conceptually the presence of time within a differential equation, and (3) appropriately interpret and apply the initial condition of the given modeling problem. Suggestions for improvements to the differential equations curriculum are included.

Faculty Mentor: Karen Marrongelle



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