LP Explorer is a Java applet which enables the simplex method to be applied to a linear programming (LP) problem and the sensitivity of the solution to changes in the problem data to be examined. It is not intended to be used as a stand alone application.
Type of Material:
LP Explorer can be used as a Simulation/Animation or in a Lecture/Presentation setting.
LP Explorer should run on any html-enabled browser. To insert an instance of the applet (as a button) into your document, a few lines of source code (given in the "user guide" under "parameter list") need to be inserted into your document. Alternatively the code given by the authors can be used as a stand-alone file.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
LP Explorer demonstrates graphical/symbolic aspects of the simplex method and explores sensitivity of solutions to some changes in the constraint conditions.
Target Student Population:
University business math students, or others just learning about linear programming.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
An introduction to linear programming and the simplex method should be supplied by the instructor planning to use LP Explorer.
LP Explorer provides a nice display of the graphical/symbolic sides of the simplex method. Students can see the progress of the solutions as they proceed through the simplex method algorithm.
With only three examples (that can not be modified significantly) there is little flexibility if one wants to work only with the site as it now stands
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
LP Explorer relieves the user of many computations (solutions of systems of equations) that make the simplex method cumbersome. It could readily be tied into an electronic tutorial on the simplex method. The graphics are very nice. Students can select the wrong pivot element and see the consequences of their choice, and can explore other (perhaps less efficient) paths to the optimal solution. Nice example of cyclic behavior in one example.
In any kind of self-directed activity, LP explorer could degenerate into a calculator (if students understand the simplex method, this may not be bad) or an oracle (click until you have the right choices, then record your answer, bad). For problems that require an "oracle", programming the simplex method would be the appropriate assignment.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Very good and easy to understand user orientation document. Good references to other sources for further information
The creation of problems (LP explorer buttons) is a little cumbersome, as one needs to cut and paste the html text from the user's guide. For spontaneous in-class experiments that ask "What if such and such changes?" this should not be a problem as long as the examples stay small. Nonetheless there is a small threshold to be overcome if you are not used to writing html source code. Documentation could be made easier for those who do not usually write html source code.
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