Abstract for: How Well Can Students Determine Simple Growth and Decay Patterns From a Diagram?

Six of the 35 national (United States) mathematics standards for high school (ages 15 to 18) instruction relate very well to the use of system dynamics modeling methods, especially in algebra. A very important concept, recognizing the underlying factors that produce different patterns of behavior could be considered a unifying theme throughout algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus. Most of the assignments given to algebra students do not ask students to consider this underlying theme (growth/decay pattern) except when studying a particular function. They never combine functions they have studied in isolation to determine potentially new growth or decay patterns. An assessment was given to 62 advanced algebra students to determine if they could predict the growth or decay patter for six different scenarios, given a STELLA diagram and a few numbers. This paper explains the assessment given and presents the results produced by the 62 students.