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Engineering students' mathematical thinking: In the wild and with a lab-based task
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Cardella, M, Atman, C. (2007). Engineering students' mathematical thinking: In the wild and with a lab-based task .
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Cardella, M, Atman, C. (2007). Engineering students' mathematical thinking: In the wild and with a lab-based task .
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cited authors
Cardella, M; Atman, C
authors
Cardella, Monica
abstract
Although mathematics is considered to be a fundamental element of engineering education, little empirical research has been conducted to understand how engineering students actually use mathematics. This project takes a research-informed approach towards understanding the role of mathematics in engineering design by combining two studies of engineering students' use of mathematical thinking: a study of engineering students' use of mathematics during an industrybased senior design project and a study of engineering students' use of mathematics during a laboratory based design problem. The capstone study used a combination of qualitative methodologies to investigate engineering students' use of mathematics during one of their first real-world design projects. For this study, a team of five industrial engineering students agreed to allow the investigator to observe their team meetings, individually interview each team member and analyze their work related to their capstone project. For the laboratory based study, eight industrial engineering seniors were asked to think aloud while completing a three-hour design problem The findings from the capstone study guided the analysis of the data from the laboratory based study. Mathematical thinking behavior was investigated using Schoenfeld's five fundamental aspects of mathematical thinking: knowledge base, problem solving strategies or heuristics, effective use of resources, beliefs and affects and mathematical practices. Additionally, Atman and Bursic's design process coding scheme2 was used to investigate the engineering students' design behavior, and identify relationships between mathematical thinking and engineering design behavior. In both contexts the engineering students engaged in mathematical thinking throughout their design processes. This paper presents: 1) a summary of the different mathematical thinking activities that the students engaged in during the capstone study, and 2) a summary of the mathematical thinking activities the students engaged in during the laboratory based study, and 3) some insights from the laboratory study into how the students engaged in mathematical thinking during specific design activities. The results of this study provide insights into how engineering students actually use mathematics, which can inform the way that mathematics is taught to engineering students as well as students at the pre-college level. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2007.
publication date
January 1, 2007