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Avery Point students follow clues
to develop problem-sovling skills
May 11, 1998

The chemistry building at Avery Point has been blown up. Students are deploying alibis and algorithms in an attempt to find out whodunnit. The scene of a recent crime? No, the scenario is part of a program offered through the Learning Resource Center at the Avery Point campus for students to develop problem-solving skills.

The center created the program, "Problem Solving Strategies in a Parallel Universe," building on a project first tried in 1994, with a grant from the Institute for Teaching and Learning. Avery Point staff and faculty members from the history, math, English, coastal studies, psychology, chemistry, and physics departments aided in providing problems related to the overall mystery of how and why the chemistry lab was blown up.

"The event brought together faculty and students from different disciplines", said Trudy Flanery, assistant dean of students at Avery Point, "and students can look at similarities and differences in approaches to problem solving." Flanery also said that the idea for the mystery theme and story line was a spin-off from the actual construction that is taking place at the campus.

The program started in early March and ran for five weeks. Stories and clues were released every Monday through a special newspaper, the Ucapian Dispatch. The participants could also visit the Learning Center for additional problems and clues. The problems ranged in difficulty, and incorporated an eclectic mix of disciplines. The questions utilized both mathematical and interpretive skills.

Susan Lyons, director of the Learning Resource Center, felt that the program was a success. With 34 students involved, the event was invaluable in promoting group work, she said. As to the future of this program, Lyons said she intends to use a shorter version of the activity as part of fall orientation.

John Pyrzenski