Introducing MATLAB in freshmen Math course

Edith Aguirre, Mathematics, El Paso Community College

I currently teach at a 2-year community college where we enroll almost 30,000 predominantly Hispanic students each semester. This fall 2019 semester I will mainly be teaching the Pre-Calculus(MATH1314) freshmen course where we introduce functions to students and cover math topics found in a College-Algebra courses. The class is structured so that students register for a three hour face-to-face lecture or online with professor, and then attend one-hour lab with a lab assistant. In these labs, I would like to incorporate computational lab assignments so that our students learn how to use MATLAB.

I want to use MATLAB in this freshmen course, because a majority of our students transfer to the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Our neighboring four-year institution, UTEP, has students entering their STEM curriculum from our two-year institution and they are falling behind in those courses because they have not been exposed to MATLAB. Our college has approximately more females than males enrolled each semester, and yet the computer science majors are majority males*. I, as a female instructor, would like to increase those numbers and expose more young females into the computer science topics through my freshmen level math courses, starting with MATH1314.

A challenge I face is that I don't feel confident enough to use MATLAB program and have not requested our department to purchase licenses for our labs to install for student use. I have not used MATLAB since I was in graduate school. Ever since we registered for this training, I have been watching videos to recall the function notation to write the codes on the editor. I have been practicing and have some ideas written on what lab assignments to include in Math1314 labs. As I start to create the projects, I'm also mindful of how the students may experience this for the first time, so I'm still doing research to find out how we can run MATLAB in our open lab settings. Then, we will need to schedule some professional development for all student success staff/faculty (tutors, lab assistants, part-time and full-time faculty) to train them how to help our students during their projects and to have the MATLAB program in their facilities.

With this MATLAB training opportunity, I will be able to gain that confidence and experience to design more critical thinking lab assignments to include in the labs of Math1314 classes. My goal is to share my new knowledge with others to help our students be successful in their freshman math course and get them hooked to learning how to program in a new computer language.

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Introducing MATLAB in freshmen Math course (Acrobat (PDF) 108kB Aug23 19)