Problem modules

General instructions


How to submit

Reflection and self-assessment

Course PM


Online Python

Online Mathematica

General module instructions

The problems are the core of the course. They are designed to develop your own modelling skills and your problem solving ability, so that you can better handle new and unknown situations. Generally, the course will let you practice to reach as far as possible with the help of your own thinking. It is a common belief that if you cannot solve a problem, it is because you do not have enough knowledge. However, it may equally well be that you have all the knowledge you need, but you need to spend more time thinking and working with the problem to see a way forward.

You work in groups of two people, where both members must actively participate in solving every problem in each module (if you cannot find a group member, write to the person responsible for the problem modules and we can see if we can find a match). Some questions are quite open, and it is up to you how much work you want to spend on each problem, and to consider when you have arrived at a reasonable answer. Officially, you have about 20 hours per person per week for this course (problems and lectures), and we do not require of you to work more than that. However note that in problem solving, time management is a very important issue, and you must consciously try to control how much time you spend on each problem.

We give you tasks that are reasonably realistic and therefore have a true problem solving content. To be realistic, the problems as stated may (intentionally) leave room for further interpretation and clarification, they can be quite challenging to solve, there is not always an obvious right or best answer, and you will need to make reasonable assumptions, investigate and try things out. When approaching a new problem, the first step of problem solving is always to understand the problem, and to reasonably interpret and define the problem is an important and intentional part of this task. Then, we fully accept that you may not be able to solve a problem completely. However, the learning you experience when you try to understand and solve a non-trivial problem is more important than actually reaching a final answer. You improve your problem solving skills, and you will better understand the solution we present afterwards in the feedback lecture.

To learn problem solving in this way, only works if you do not search for answers in books, on the web or anywhere else, unless specifically indicated in the problem. Instead we offer rich opportunities for you to discuss your questions with us. You may not spread your solutions or other insights to other groups, since this would destroy their learning opportunity. If any literature, web sources, personal communication or other sources inadvertently have been used as part of the solution they should be clearly listed in the written solution. After you have handed in your answer however, you are encouraged to look anywhere and to discuss with others!

When reporting, show that you really tried by reporting what you did in a clear and logically consistent way. Even if you did not fully solve the exercises, we still expect that basic facts are correct and that the presentation itself is consistent. Do not write unnecessarily long answers, a short and clear answer is better. The quality of the presentation is as always a part of the overall quality. If you have access to a scanner (or use your mobile), it can be a good idea to include handwritten figures and formulas, which is often better than what you can easily accomplish with a program.

For some of the problems, Mathematica is used (you are allowed to use any other system but then you are on your own). You are strongly recommended to learn the most basic elements of Mathematica first, rather than jumping directly to commands you need for a specific exercise, since unnecessary practical problems can be avoided that way. For more information, see our Mathematica hints.

The pedagogy of this course is based on trust. For example, we consider it as a serious breach of the rules to hand in answers that are not entirely your own, and if this is discovered we will take appropriate action. If you run into trouble with passing or meeting deadlines, for whatever reason, then come and talk to me (Dag) and I will do my best to show a helpful and constructive attitude.

Supervision and (weekly) meeting

The supervision is a very important part of the course, where you can discuss the exercises and your ideas with us, and continuously receive individual feedback. Otherwise you may spend a lot of time without getting anywhere and this is quite unnecessary!

To best help you to learn problem solving skills we give advice interactively and incrementally, so you are encouraged to come back and discuss the same exercise several times. You will then get more help every time!

Once for every module, you are required to take the initiative to a short meeting with a supervisor. Both members of the group should be present. This is to reduce any misunderstandings, to help you with any difficulties you may have with the course, and to ensure that both group members are making the expected effort. You can request this meeting anytime during the week (it is highly preferable if not all groups come at the end of the week), normally within the scheduled supervision times.

So make sure to come to the supervision sessions, ask in connection to the lectures, or request a meeting at some other time. A good hint is to have a look at all the exercises at the beginning of the week so that you can ask the most basic questions for several exercises during the first session.

Two-step submission

Because of the importance of reflection, we employ a two-step system for the modules. In the first step we ask you to make a serious best effort to solve the problems, given the time available. It is important that you really do this, because it is the actual struggle with the problems that make your abilities as well as your limitations visible. This in turn is a prerequisite for self-awareness and improvement of your skills.

After submission you receive feedback, most importantly in the compulsory feedback lecture. Given that you know what you did yourself, the feedback lecture will then clarify most individual issues. As needed, you may also receive some individual feedback on your submission. You are also welcome to ask us for further individual feedback. After you have handed in your answers, you are also highly encouraged to speak to other students, discuss and compare solutions, this can give additional perspectives that we as teachers cannot provide.

For deeper learning, we then request a second submission where you are asked to reflect on what you learned and also to make a self-assessment.

Passing requirements and grading

The course is designed so that you should not need to worry about passing if you have the right background, follow the instructions and make the expected effort. So engage in the problem solving because you want to learn!

The main submission is where all the problem solving is done. It will pass if:

The reflection will pass if you have made a careful reflection, and the quality of the module as a whole meets the requirements of your course (Sufficient for DIT025, Good for DIT856). If you found the problems challenging, you have more to learn in the reflection - in fact reflecting on your own problem solving is the key method to learn in this situation.

For your own practice, you are also asked to make self-assessments of your work. However, while we will read your self-assessments, the final grade for each module and for the course as a whole will be set by the teachers.

The final grade is based on an overall assessment at the end of the course. If you are not satisfied with the result, you will afterwards have the opportunity to discuss this with the main teacher(s). If you are close to a grade boundary, you will have the opportunity to improve your effort in the course.

Problem modules