Choosing a College Roommate: How Multi-Criteria Decision Modeling Can Help

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This lesson is designed to introduce Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) methodology. Students can apply MCDM to a wide range of real-world decision contexts such as selecting a cellphone plan, choosing a roommate or teammate, deciding which college to attend, and planning where to go on vacation. In each of these decision contexts, there are conflicting criteria of interest to the decision maker. The goal of MCDM is to enable individuals to use a structured analytical methodology for choosing the best alternative as measured by a weighted function of diverse measures that reflects their preferences. This lesson does not require any particular mathematical prerequisites. The techniques introduced in this lesson are straightforward and based on basic mathematical functions of scaling and calculating a weighted function. The lesson is designed to be taught in 2 class periods. Segments 1 to 5 focus on framing and organizing the data collection process and can be discussed in the first session. Segments 6-9 focus on analyzing the data and making the final choice and can be discussed in the second session. The tables that will be used in class activities are provided and can be printed for students to work on. Some of the class activities that have been suggested for breaks include defining objectives and measures, coming up with appropriate ranges for measures, converting data to a common unit, weighting the measures, and calculating the final scores for each alternative. This lesson can be followed with a team project.

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