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System Analysis Methodology for Teaching Algebra: A Foundation in Engineering Education

Abstract

"The public school system in Virginia is implementing more challenging standards and assessments to ensure that all of their graduates possess the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and the workplace. One of the standards calls for increased rigor through an emphasis of solving multistep problems and applications. The implementation of this approach will require a change of thinking in the way the teachers approach subject matter for preparing students to study engineering and other related fields. We proposed a 'system analysis' approach as a model solution to address developing and teaching word problems in algebra courses beginning at the middle school level. The initial implementation of the approach was tested during teachers' circle workshops and 2-week summer institutes for mathematics, technology, and art middle school teachers from three school divisions in the southeastern region of Virginia. In addition, mathematics and engineering/technology faculty members from community colleges were also part of the institute. This paper focuses on the development of the system analysis approach for teaching algebra using bridge design and shipping terminal design problems as applications. Our approach illustrates to teachers how to solve word problems algorithmically using equations and variables, and how to teach this method to their students. It demonstrates how an engineering methodology can be applied effectively in K-12 education. As a result of the program, the teachers could teach their students the difference between true problem solving and the trial-and-error approach."

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