# Using AI to Explain Tricky STEM Problems to Students

## by Umar Farman Samdani on Jul 24th, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into teaching methodologies has shown immense potential in transforming the way students approach difficult math and science problems. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) teachers can harness the power of AI to offer detailed explanations, propose new spin-off or follow-up questions, and provide alternate ways to solve problems, creating a more personalized and engaging learning experience. Let us explore some examples of how AI can be employed to tackle complex mathematical and scientific challenges and enhance the learning journey for students.

**AI-Generated Detailed Explanations:** Imagine a challenging calculus problem that involves finding the limit of a complex function as it approaches infinity. The AI-powered teaching tool can break down the problem step-by-step, providing detailed explanations at each stage of the solution. It can elucidate the fundamental concepts of limits and continuity, guiding the student through the process of simplification and highlighting the significance of each algebraic manipulation. By providing instant feedback and ensuring a thorough understanding of the concepts, the AI system encourages students to explore further and strengthens their problem-solving skills. Consider, for example, this prompt I generated on LowTech.ai. The prompt asks for a STEM question and a reference age for the explanation. Let’s see the code in action:

**Input:**

*Two cyclists start 30 miles apart, and begin cycling towards each other at 15 mph. The instant they begin, a fly goes from one cyclist to the other, then back to the first cyclist, and so on, always flying between the cyclists. The fly flies at a constant 30 mph. How far in total does the fly travel when the cyclists meet?*

**Output:**

*To solve this problem, let's break it down into smaller steps.*

*Step 1: Calculate the time it takes for the cyclists to meet*

*Since the two cyclists are traveling towards each other, we can consider their combined speed. The total speed of both cyclists together is 15 mph + 15 mph = 30 mph. The distance they need to cover is 30 miles. Now, we can use the formula speed = distance/time to find the time it takes for them to meet.*

*30 mph = 30 miles/time*

*time = 1 hour*

*Step 2: Calculate how far each cyclist has traveled when they meet*

*Since both cyclists are traveling at the same speed, and they meet after 1 hour, we can calculate the distance each cyclist has traveled.*

*Distance = speed × time*

*Distance = 15 mph × 1 hour*

*Distance = 15 miles*

*Step 3: Calculate the time it takes for the fly to travel*

*The fly travels at a constant speed of 30 mph. The total distance the fly needs to cover when the cyclists meet is twice the distance traveled by either cyclist since the fly flies from one cyclist to the other and then back again.*

*Total distance covered by the fly = 2 × 15 miles = 30 miles*

*Now, we can use the formula speed = distance/time to find the time it takes for the fly to travel.*

*30 mph = 30 miles/time*

*time = 1 hour*

*Step 4: Calculate the distance traveled by the fly*

*Since the fly travels at a constant speed of 30 mph and it takes 1 hour to travel, we can calculate the distance traveled by the fly.*

*Distance = speed × time*

*Distance = 30 mph × 1 hour*

*Distance = 30 miles*

*So, the fly travels a total distance of 30 miles when the cyclists meet*

**Proposing New Spin-off or Follow-Up Questions:** After solving a difficult physics problem involving projectile motion, an AI-based platform can dynamically generate new spin-off questions that extend the core concepts. For example, it could present variations such as considering different initial velocities, altering the launch angle, or factoring in air resistance. These spin-off questions not only challenge the students to apply the principles they have learned but also foster critical thinking and creativity. By encountering a diverse range of problems, students develop a deeper understanding of the underlying principles and gain the confidence to tackle real-world scenarios. LowTech’s “follow up” feature is perfect for this task!

**Offering Alternate Ways to Solve a Problem:** In a challenging geometry problem, the AI-based system can showcase multiple approaches to reach the solution. For instance, when dealing with the congruence of triangles, it might present options like using the Side-Angle-Side (SAS) or Angle-Side-Angle (ASA) postulates. By exploring different methodologies, students gain insights into the flexibility and versatility of mathematical problem-solving. Additionally, the AI system can highlight the pros and cons of each approach, allowing students to develop their preferences and strategies based on their strengths and learning styles.

**Adaptive Learning and Personalization:** One of the remarkable aspects of AI is its ability to adapt to individual student needs. By analyzing a student's performance, the AI-powered platform can identify areas of strength and weakness. If a student consistently excels in algebra but struggles with trigonometry, the AI system can customize the learning experience by providing more challenging trigonometry problems and supplementary materials to reinforce the concepts. Personalization fosters a sense of achievement and encourages students to explore their interests in STEM subjects.

**Real-Time Feedback and Error Analysis:** As students work through difficult science experiments or complex mathematical proofs, the AI system can offer real-time feedback on their performance. If a student commits an error, the system can pinpoint the mistake and offer constructive guidance for improvement. By analyzing common errors made by students across the board, the AI tool can also generate insights for teachers to address common misconceptions effectively. This data-driven feedback loop enables both students and teachers to make informed adjustments to their learning and teaching approaches, fostering a continuous cycle of improvement.

**Virtual Laboratories and Simulations:** In subjects like chemistry and biology, conducting experiments can be challenging due to the requirement of specialized equipment and safety concerns. AI-driven virtual laboratories and simulations allow students to perform experiments in a risk-free environment, enabling them to explore and observe phenomena that may not be feasible in a traditional classroom setting. These simulations provide a hands-on experience, enhancing students' understanding of scientific principles and encouraging curiosity and exploration.

**Natural Language Interaction:** Advanced AI-powered virtual assistants can engage students in natural language interactions to answer their questions or provide explanations. These virtual assistants can understand the context of the queries and respond with accurate information, promoting active learning and instant access to knowledge. For example, students could ask a virtual assistant questions like, "Explain the concept of cellular respiration," or "How do you find the derivative of a trigonometric function?" The virtual assistant would then respond with a comprehensive explanation tailored to the student's level of understanding.

**Conclusion: **AI offers a myriad of possibilities for STEM teachers to enrich the learning experience of their students and tackle difficult math and science problems effectively. By providing detailed explanations, proposing new spin-off or follow-up questions, offering alternate problem-solving approaches, and personalizing the learning journey, AI-driven educational tools have the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and learn STEM subjects. By integrating AI into the classroom, educators can inspire curiosity, creativity, and a deep understanding of complex concepts, empowering the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and problem solvers. As technology continues to advance, the synergy between AI and education holds the promise of a brighter and more intellectually stimulating future.