The Value of Interactive Simulations Used in an Undergraduate Math Class

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Conference Proceeding

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With Hewlett Packard grants awarded to Boise State University, we are working on developing best practices for creating and sustaining virtual learning and teaching communities through a cloud computing service (Blade servers) and enhancing student motivation and performance in Math by using interactive simulation programs. As part of the project, we have developed a series of MATLAB-based simulations delivered through our Blade servers to help students better conceptualize abstract Math concepts. During the fall semester of 2010, we implemented 12 simulations in a Multivariable & Vector Calculus class in which 117 students were enrolled. To better understand the overall program usability via Blade servers and the value of the simulations from the student perspective, we conducted an evaluation study and answered the following three questions: 1. How do students perceive the use of interactive simulations in their Math class? 2. How do students‟ motivational characteristics (e.g., intrinsic and extrinsic goal orientations and confidence levels in studying science, math and engineering) relate to their perceptions in using simulations during the Math class? and 3. What aspects of the simulation programs should be improved? The study revealed that about 74% of students rated the value of simulations as high or moderate. The simulations tend to be attractive to students with high intrinsic goal orientation, while their value perceptions were not related to students' extrinsic goal orientation and confidence levels. The data also showed areas for improvement, based on which we have generated a "things to do" list to make the simulation programs more easily accessible and valuable to students in the future semesters.

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