The information age is sometimes as much a curse as it can be a blessing. I am not sure exactly how frustrated I should be when it comes to a situation that arose as I left one of my classes this afternoon. I’ll spare many of the details but suffice to say, a project is assigned for which a valid solution can be found online. The project is specific enough that there is little room for variation on the approach to the solution. Sure, I’ll agree with the students that they will still need to be able to understand the model to explain the solution, but surely something has been lost in not deriving the model for themselves. I don’t know a solution to the dilemma I have.
UPDATED (2/28/06): The students in the group involved are responsible students with character. I want to emphasize that I am not impugning or challenging their character in any way by my frustration. In fact, members of the group have already stepped forward to offer to change projects. I made the proposal that they may choose to switch projects or simply accept one additional exercise based on only a slight modification or direct application of the model. I also want say that Robert makes a very good point in the comments. In the real world of mathematical modeling, it is exactly the practice of mathematicians (as well as other problem solvers) to research and determine how has the problem been solved before and then tweak or revise the model to fit the context or improve its application. Can I get a witness?