Solving Problems Arising from Biology, Social Sciences, and Engineering

Dr. Alan Veliz-Cuba knows that math can be found anywhere, and with that knowledge he has challenged his students to use their math skills in a few tangible ways. He has received $500 to help him forward his experiential learning initiatives in his MTH 149 Calculus course. 

One experiential activity he conducted with his students was about fulfilling dietary requirements. Students were asked to evaluate the nutritional content of an actual granola bar, so they could compare it to the "ideal" granola bar. Then, they were asked to design a granola bar that was closest to the ideal one that was previously found. 

Another experiential activity Veliz-Cuba created involved nontransitive, skew, polyhedral, and unlabeled dice. These dice were used to understand why in certain problems option A is better than option B, option B is better than option C, yet, option C is better than option A. The purpose of this activity was to show how nonintuitive probability can be. Veliz-Cuba explains that this idea is very important to understand because many published research that relies on statistics has to be carefully interpreted. 

A third activity revolved around designing a box that holds the maximum amount of candy. In this activity, students were asked to design a box for a hypothetical manger of a candy company. Using a piece of cardboard, candy, and a precision scale, students performed optimization analysis to design a box that could hold the maximum amount of candy. A fourth activity involved designing and solving a mathematical representation of how pH changes with respect to time in a changing environment. 

Veliz-Cuba identified several learning outcomes for his experiential learning activities. One was to Identify quantities of interest n a concrete problem arising from biology, social sciences, and/or engineering. Another was to understand why some problems cannot be solved with intuition or basic math only. With a couple of the activities, he wanted his students to construct mathematical representations to understand how certain quantities relate while using the advanced mathematical tools learned in class. Veliz-Cuba also wanted his students to identify possible issues within a given solution, and to identify possible uses of the solution in different contexts. As with all experiential learning affairs, these activities were designed to challenge students in more than one way, so they can develop a multitude of skill sets that will help them in the future.

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Alan Veliz-Cuba

Assistant Professor

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Email: Alan Veliz-Cuba

Full-Time Faculty
College of Arts and Sciences: Mathematics