STUDENTS THINK… WHY DO WE HAVE TO STUDY NUMERICAL ANALYSIS?
In the teaching of mathematics in engineering careers, the importance and usefulness of the different issues studied must be emphasized to capture the interest of students. The discussion of theory within the context of problem solving, not only motivates students but also helps them to achieve significant and comprehensive learning. This methodology may be useful to solve the disruption between mathematics and specialty subjects.
Some experiences have been carried out in Numerical Analysis courses at Facultad Regional San Nicolás, Universidad Tecnológica Nacional in Argentina. A great motivation in students has been observed when working with visual applications dealing with different issues in the subject, designed using different Computer Algebra Systems (CAS).
With the aim that students achieve meaningful learning, it was decided to include problems where numerical methods are necessary to obtain their solution. So as students can focus on the problems and the solution techniques needed, without wasting time making calculations, some apps were designed to be used for solving them.
The newest applications were designed with Mathematica, as computable document format files (CDF). The program required to open these files is the CDF-Player, available for free in the Wolfram´s website. Also, this kind of files may be embedded in a webpage, and they can be executed in a web browser if the corresponding plugin is installed. In this way, students can access to the CDF files almost everywhere.
Diverse CDF files related to different issues taught in Numerical Analysis courses were gathered in a website called “Numerical Analysis Virtual Lab”, available at www.frsn.utn.edu.ar/gie/anlab. Some of the apps are tailor made, and others are linked to the Wolfram Demonstration Project, http://demonstrations.wolfram.com. New tools are frequently incorporated.
This work intends to present some of the new tools proposing problems to be solved with numerical techniques. They can be used as introductory examples or as closing activities to use acquired knowledge, as the teacher prefers.