Suggestions for student-generated modelling

We encourage students to invent their own problems and to outline their approach to solutions.

These problems should be related to things that students find interesting and important.

Some topics with the potential to give rise to good modelling projects are indicated below.


  • How many artists actually make any money from their music? How much is piracy costing performers?


  • What is the benefit of minor parties? How are they managed in other countries?


  • Is gambling good for the country? How well can winners be predicted?
  • In archery, what is the optimum angle of elevation for the release of an arrow in the sport of archery so that the arrow hits the perfect bullseye? How does air resistance subsequently influence this optimum release angle?


  • What games can be analysed to find winning strategies?

Manmade disasters

  • When will the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan dry up completely? Can it be saved?

Catastrophic events

  • How can you predict the severity of the damage of a tsunami from the Richter scale value based on energy?

Environmental problems

  • Drought is causing water shortages in cities. How much water do we have left in the Hinze Dam? Will it cater for the current and future population of the Gold Coast?
  • Analyse the spread of introduced biological control agents. What is the culling rate needed to stabilise the cane toad population in Australia?
  • What do models tell us about climate change?

Disease (epidemics and pandemics)

  • What do the past and current trends in HIV/AIDS diagnosis and deaths suggest for the future number of people afflicted and their odds for surviving?
  • Research Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (sometimes described as the human form of ‘mad cow’ disease). The Chief Medical Officer in the United Kingdom has suggested fatalities from the disease could number in the hundreds of thousands. What are the rates of people who are infected but not showing symptoms, compared to fatalities?

A number of these were chosen and developed by students at a modelling challenge sponsored on the Gold Coast over several years by A B Paterson College and Griffith University.*

*See Galbraith, P., Stillman, G. & Brown, J. (2010). Turning ideas into modelling problems. In R. Lesh, P. Galbraith, C. Haines, & A. Hurford (Eds.), Modeling Students’ Modeling Competencies (pp. 133–144). New York: Springer.