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Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE J A Rossiter The University of Sheffield

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 2 Contents 1. Motivation for project 2. Why MATLAB? 3. Laboratory environment and challenges 4. Conclusions

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 3 Motivation Mathematics is taught to support engineering learning and not as an end in itself. Students need a clear understanding of mathematical basics, such as algebra, but there is no need for example, for them to solve, by hand, numerically demanding problems. Students are taught the basics and then expected to use a computer to do long and involved algebra and computation. At Sheffield, we give students formal teaching in software packages which support mathematics in the hope that students would use this package both to: – reinforce their learning. – become more efficient in solving problems with lengthy algebra/computation. This covers topics such as curve sketching, matrix algebra, calculus, Bode and Nyquist plots, simulation of ODEs, modelling and simulation of time series, etc.

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 4 Why MATLAB? MATLAB is a well used - the international standard in the control community. It is readily available - approx £50 at good bookshops for student version. Has very large built-in functionality and numerous toolbox add-ons are available. AND, it is easier to code and use than conventional languages.

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 5 Session organisation I will introduce the key ideas of the session through audience participation. 1. Find a computer 2. Ensure you can find the MATLAB ‘command’ window. 3. Ensure you can find the WebCT window. [ID:co1jar1pwd:Cont43roL] website: webct.shef.ac.uk

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 6 A typical ‘lecture’ This will be somewhat faster than for students due to audience expertise.

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 7 CHAT facility 1. On WebCT find and select the balloon icon ‘lectures’. This is the CHAT window. 2. I will enter some lines into the CHAT window. 3. Cut and paste these lines into MATLAB. 4. Try sending each other some messages. 5. Experiment using the concepts in my lines.

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 8 Interactive whiteboard 1. Select the whiteboard icon. 2. Use load to investigate some of the pictures. 3. Try sketching/writing on the whiteboard yourself using the palette on the left.

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 9 Dynamic web-link 1. Select the option web link for lecture. 2. Take one block of code at a time (marked by the row of %%%%%%%%%% a. Cut and paste the block into the command window. b. What has it done? Can you edit the lines to do something similar ? c. Editting of blocks of code is easier using the file editor – usually top left of window. Highlight and then press F9 for automatic cut and paste into command window.

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 10 Dynamic web-link (2) This page is stored on a common access server (accessible on Sheffield’s network). Hence lecturer can add/edit lines during the lecture session, on save the window updates immediately (with F5). Also, students cannot edit and hence interfere.

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HELM 2005 Experiences of supporting mathematics learning through MATLAB and a VLE 11 Conclusions MATLAB – a very useful tool for solving mathematics problems quickly and accurately. Takes tedium out of numerical computations. Students can use to test own solutions or to improve insight. Empowered to be better/independent learners later in programme. HOWEVER: teaching environment is crucial to effective delivery and for a fully interactive session.

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