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CBE Life Sci Educ. 2010 Fall;9(3):248-65. doi: 10.1187/cbe.10-03-0022.

From biology to mathematical models and back: teaching modeling to biology students, and biology to math and engineering students.

Author information

1
Departments of Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-7080, USA. hjc@case.edu

Abstract

We describe the development of a course to teach modeling and mathematical analysis skills to students of biology and to teach biology to students with strong backgrounds in mathematics, physics, or engineering. The two groups of students have different ways of learning material and often have strong negative feelings toward the area of knowledge that they find difficult. To give students a sense of mastery in each area, several complementary approaches are used in the course: 1) a "live" textbook that allows students to explore models and mathematical processes interactively; 2) benchmark problems providing key skills on which students make continuous progress; 3) assignment of students to teams of two throughout the semester; 4) regular one-on-one interactions with instructors throughout the semester; and 5) a term project in which students reconstruct, analyze, extend, and then write in detail about a recently published biological model. Based on student evaluations and comments, an attitude survey, and the quality of the students' term papers, the course has significantly increased the ability and willingness of biology students to use mathematical concepts and modeling tools to understand biological systems, and it has significantly enhanced engineering students' appreciation of biology.

PMID:
20810957
PMCID:
PMC2931672
DOI:
10.1187/cbe.10-03-0022
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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