Functional Thinking

We call our problem-solving process, functional thinking. When you apply functional thinking to digital age problem solving, you will find that a few fundamental models enable you to creatively solve quantitative problems. Think of functions as LEGOs, building blocks.

1

Organize data by first building a Parameter Table to make the spreadsheet dynamic and easy to change and to ask “What if…” Inputs start with x₀ values and increments with Δx values (or in this case t₀ and Δt).

2

Build the model starting with an input discrete variable (x). Link its start value to x₀ and use iteration to add the incremental value Δx to each cell in turn by copying the rule from either a column or row to create a numberline. Add an output column using a rule.

3

Continue to build the model with a table for each output and then a table that combines the individual outputs. For example, add columns based on new rules, use outputs as inputs for recursion, combine simple functions in new ways.

4

Test and iterate your model to improve it and solve the problem. Add graphs, conditional formatting, or other data representations to design the output to communicate your solution to others.

5

Now you are ready to be a creative problem solver by asking the most powerful business and STEM question, “What if…” What if you change an assumption, restructure the model, or input different data?