Updates to the Medical Insurance Project

I have been absent from this page for a while. Over the winter break and throughout the beginning of the semester I have been updating the Medical Insurance Project and adapting it for my calculus class. In addition, I have a new project for college algebra on college costs. In this post I want to outline the changes I have made to the Medical Insurance Project.

Last semester, my students struggled with taking their plan details and creating a table of charges and costs. It seemed like they needed an intermediate step between entering the plan details in Excel and creating the table in Excel. In addition, creating models for two plans was quite a bit of work. To help mitigate these troubles, I have rewritten the project and named it Medical Insurance 2. This project includes a new technology assignment, Find and Understand Costs, where they fill out a table of charges and costs by hand. This forces them to confront the unfamiliar terms before they ever begin their cost calculations in Excel. Instead of finding two insurance plans to model, they only find one plan and compare it to the Basic Plus Plan. They should simplify the project a bit, but still preserve the same solution strategy.

In Medical Insurance 3, calculus students choose a health plan and model it with a piecewise linear function. Using three technology assignments, they complete the same strategy as college algebra students complete in Medical Insurance 2. Once they have their model, they use the definition of continuity to prove that it is continuous. This amounts to proving that the function is continuous at the charge where the deductible is met and the charge where the out of pocket maximum is reached. Great example of continuity in a real world context.

Both of these project utilize similar technology assignments. Since these assignments take some effort to create, reusing them makes better use of my time. My college algebra students are currently completing Medical Insurance 2. My business calculus students completed Medical Insurance 3 as their first project of the Spring semester. All of the students are frustrated with the non-mathematical content. This keeps me very busy in office hours and answering many emails each day. However, I get a lot of feedback about how important they think it is to understand all of this. After all, the debate over health care in the US and how to pay for it is far from over. Maybe these projects can do a small part to contribute to better understanding of the issues for my students.