


Objective
Students should be able to identify the main parameters of a real situation, formalise a model, then explore it, interpret the results and determine how the model fits with reality.
Subobjectives
Students should be able to:
Context
Often, when teaching and explaining open phenomena in school, presentations are made in an excessively deductive way. To tackle, even at an elementary level, the modelling of a simple situation, allows one to balance deductive aspects with an exploratory approach (simulation versus modelling). This unit offers the opportunity to solve some true problems instead of «artificial» ones. Such experiences bridge the experimental and the theoretical (formal) approaches.
Content
A good introduction would be to simulate and experiment with an already solved problem (an existing model). Examples include radioactive decay, change in Phvalues, population changes. Modifying an existing model, after running a simulation to try to understand the more important relation between the main parameters, helps to clarify the necessary basis for the real modelling process. Examples include supply and demand, pollution effects, running a company. From concrete observations, very often visual ones, students can build up an outline of a system allowing them to reproduce the observed behaviour in an adequate way.
Students should be model on a spreadsheet and on a special modelling tool, if available.
Resources
Minimum necessary resources:
One computer per group of students;
Modelling software or a specific simulation program.
Optional extra resources:
Existing commercial software, such as Simearth, Simlife, Simcity;
Specific tools with graphical interfaces inspired by dynamic systems (Stella, Modus, Extend);
Specific tools dealing with numeric and symbolic calculations (Mathematica, Derive, Mathlab, Mapple).
Links
Unit A4 Working with a Spreadsheet;
this Unit links to the use of modelling in natural science, social sciences and mathematics.
Methodology
Although many different approaches are possible, depending on the choice and availability of tools, it is essential, when teaching such a unit at, to limit oneself to simple models, even for complex situations.