Students, faculty explore differential equations through models

Students, faculty explore differential equations through models

Mariel Pattinaro and Richard Hill perform the coin model used during the workshop.Detroit Mercy students and faculty explored using models to solve differential equations during a recent educational workshop, hosted by Professor of Mathematics Xiaohui (Kathy) Zhong.

The talk, titled “Bringing Models to Math Classes,” is part of Detroit Mercy’s Department of Mathematics Research Colloquium Series, which aims to blend pioneering research ideas with engaging narrative. Zhong relayed what she had learned during a Systemic Initiative for Modeling Investigations and Opportunities with Differential Equations (SIMIODE) workshop in Oregon. SIMIODE works to enact model-first approaches in teaching differential equations.

Detroit Mercy students and faculty modeled the reproduction and death of bacteria by repeatedly flipping coins on a paper plate. The bacteria, represented by the coins, are considered dead when the coin lands on “heads” and are replaced by new bacteria. The process repeats and a model is written based on the population recorded in each cycle.

“The hands-on examples really helped me understand the big picture,” said Joseph Bergeron, a junior studying Mechanical Engineering at Detroit Mercy. Bergeron hopes to see models implemented more in his courses.

Zhong’s goal is to bring mathematical modeling to Detroit Mercy and adapt it for other courses and undergraduate research projects.