“PSUM: problem-solving in undergraduate mathematics”, a project we are supporting at work, have produced an interactive problem/puzzle as an early prototype for a virtual problem solving resource package.
Picture This! is an interactive problem solving application. You are shown a diagram which somehow relates to two integers. You are asked to change the two integers and explore the effect on the diagram. Once you have figured out the effect of the two numbers on the diagram, you are invited to consider a series of probing questions, such as:
What is allowed to change and what must stay the same? Do different pairs of integers necessarily lead to different diagrams? Can you start from a diagram and work back to the initial numbers?
Important: Once you have played with the virtual problem solving environment, please fill out this survey from the researchers. The researchers have said to me that they are happy for the page to be public and hope that anyone who uses it will fill out the survey. Doing so, you will help the researchers discover whether the use of this software to present problems is worthwhile and beneficial. The survey asks if you are a student or a tutor. If you choose “student” you will be asked about your use of the simulation and your understanding of the underlying mathematics. If you choose “tutor” (or leave the question blank) you will be asked about how you used it with undergraduate students.
This project seeks to produce “a virtual problem solving environment which hosts problems suitable for a range of undergraduate mathematics courses“. If you want to find out more about this project then you can read the interim report from this project over on my work blog.