MST and Dijkstra animations at a German Hochschule

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mcclung
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Joined: 2009-12-07
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Instructor(s): 
O. William McClung
Location: 
Pädagogische Hochschule Ludwigsburg, Germany
Course: 
Mathematik 130
Term / Date: 
Summer Semester 2011
AVs used: 

The students were asked to view three animations, Kruskal and Prim for MST and Dijkstra for shortest-path, before coming to the 90-min. class. As the algorithms don't provide an explanation of steps or color-coding, a web page was created describing the algorithms and sample real-world problems whose solutions required these algorithms. An additional explanation applet was created which synchronized with the animation applet to provide the missing explanations. Students were asked to email the instructor answers to simple questions based on their experience with the applet.

Few students emailed answers to the questions, perhaps because the explanations were in English and the students' native tongue is German, so I quickly demonstrated the applets in class, asking the students to predict their behavior with each mouseclick. They had no problem in doing so and I believe the applets were effective in getting them to understand these three algorithms. At the end of the class, I asked them to rate their understanding of the algorithms from 1 = "do not understand" to 5 = "fully understand" and received nine 5's and three 4's.