M-MODEL: An online tool for promoting student problem solving utilizing mental models

Edward Anderson, Roman Taraban

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Students learn to solve problems by developing mental models of the problem. Although these models are many and diverse, a common one used in engineering education consists of identifying the known and unknown variables, construction of a graphical problem representation, and developing a mathematical model representing the two preceding steps. This is particularly the case for courses in physics, mechanics, and electrical circuits. M-MODEL is a computer-based implementation of this approach to problem-solving. It requires users to build the known/unknown, graphical (free-body diagram in this paper), and mathematical models of a problem. Once the student creates a complete model, M-MODEL checks it for errors such as proper number of graphical elements, naming of variables, and equation formatting. These checks also provide users with feedback that can be used to correct or improve their models. Once users are satisfied with their models, M-MODEL proceeds to solve their equations as well as display the correct solution for users to compare to their models. M-MODEL also provides a tool that individual authors can use to prepare problem models. This paper discusses the features of M-MODEL as applied to an Engineering Statics course. It also discusses how it may be used to encourage students to develop mental model approaches to problem solving.

Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2010
Event2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Louisville, KY, United States
Duration: Jun 20 2010Jun 23 2010


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