Engineering mathematics---what do students think?

Leigh N Wood

Abstract


What do our students think of mathematics and how do we help prepare them for the workplace? This article reports results from an open-ended questionnaire with engineering students in five countries. We investigate how they conceive of mathematics and how they perceive their university study has prepared them for the workforce. The results show that students have different ideas of mathematics itself and how they will use it. Some view mathematics as a tool to be used in their professional lives, others think they will use the analytical and problem solving skills. There were also those who do not believe they will use mathematics at all---that computers will do it all for them. Since notions about future utility can influence engagement with learning, we as teachers need to proactively expand students' perceptions of the fundamental importance of mathematics to working as an engineer. I provide an example of an assessment task that will help students expand their ideas of how they will use mathematics in their careers.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21914/anziamj.v49i0.360



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