Investigating engineering practice is valuable for mathematics learning. (English)

Teach. Math. Appl. 34, No. 1, 3-15 (2015).

Summary: While engineering mathematics curricula often prescribe a fixed body of mathematical knowledge, this study takes a different approach; second-year engineering students are additionally required to investigate and document an aspect of mathematics used in engineering practice. A qualitative approach is used to evaluate the impact that students’ investigations have on their mathematics learning and whether this approach creates greater value for students compared to curriculum mathematics learning. This article contains an account of students’ engagement with and their emotional responses to their investigations of professional engineers’ mathematics usage. The study illustrates the positive changes in students’ mathematics attitudes arising from their insights into engineering practice. Students have acquired a sense of wanting to learn mathematics: they now see themselves as learners preparing for their future careers. This study also introduces students to the concept of communicating mathematics.