Unlike lower level math courses where creating real world problems can sometimes seem a bit artificial, Calculus lends itself to including mathematical models used in fields from economics to infectious disease.  With the wide variety of models available calculus instructors can create meaningful and memorable problems for students.  Extending the idea further instructors can projects for students using project-based learning.

Thomas Markham describes project-based learning (PBL) as: “PBL integrates knowing and doing. Students learn knowledge and elements of the core curriculum, but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems and produce results that matter. PBL students take advantage of digital tools to produce high quality, collaborative products.” (2011 Project Based Learning. Teacher Librarian, 39(2), 38-42) Project based learning takes on different forms depending on how an instructor chooses to implement.  Calculus, with its reach into in a variety of disciplines, lends itself to PBL.   There are several ways to integrate PBL into the classroom. Some ideas for PBL are

  • A single project that students work on over the duration of the course.
  • Smaller mini projects that take 2-3 weeks to complete.
  • An interdisciplinary project that has students work on projects that combine information from different courses.

And for some inspiration regarding the types of projects possible:

  • High Point University has a short project involving limits and an oil spill https://bit.ly/2GiODRI
  • A group of math professors at the US Naval Academy have a great site to get you started with a variety of projects https://bit.ly/2uyAlXZ .

And Murray Bourne wrote an easy to digest piece on the logistic model and H1N1 which can be used as the basis for a project on disease modeling and inflection points https://bit.ly/2Ijfp9f