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An Introductory Mathematics Computer Course as a Supplement to a Mathematical Bridge Course

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

The Transition from Secondary to College Mathematics

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Page Numbers

25.175.1 - 25.175.9

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Paper Authors

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Sabina Jeschke RWTH Aachen University


Olivier Frédéric Pfeiffer Technische Universität Berlin

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Olivier Pfeiffer received his M.Sc. in mathematics at Technische Universität Berlin in 2002. His thesis in numerical mathematics investigated “Error Control using Adaptive Methods for Elliptic Control Problems in Matlab”. He has been working in several eLearning projects at TUB to support teaching of mathematics for mathematicians, engineers, and natural scientists in 2011, as a Research Assistant at SFB609 in Dresden from 2002-2004, and is now again with the School II – Mathematics and Natural Sciences at TUB.
During the recent four years, Pfeiffer focused on the organization and coordination of the involved teams and contributed to several other eLearning-related projects. He is also involved in the planning and application of future eLearning projects at TUB and is the coordinator of the Erasmus Mundus Action 2 AVEMPACE, a student and academic staff exchange program between the EU, Jordan, and Syria. In 2008-09, he spent four months of research at the Princess Sumaya University for Technology in Amman.
His research interest focuses on the development of interactive mathematical objects especially supporting the visualization of complex mathematics and physics-related problems. Contact Information: Technische Universität Berlin, Sekretariat MA 7-7, Olivier Pfeiffer, Email:; Phone: +49-(0)30-314-24603; Fax: +49-(0)30-314-24413; Web:

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Omar Musa Hasan American University of Mdaba

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Omar Hasan is currently with the Department of Electrical Engineering and is the Dean of Student Affairs at the American University of Madaba, Madaba, Jordan. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in communications engineering from New Mexico State University, USA, in 1996 and 1990. He received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from New Mexico State University, USA, in 1987. He joined the Electronic Engineering Department, Princess Sumaya University, Amman, Jordan, where he served as an Assistant Professor from 1997 to 2005 and an Associate Professor from 2005 to 2010. During that time, he served as the Chairman for the Communications Engineering Department from 2005 to 2009 and the Dean of Student Affairs in 2010. He has worked in the areas of turbo coding and optical wireless channels. He worked as a consultant for Global Cardiac Monitors, Houston, Texas, 2000 to 2002. During the years 1991-1992, he worked in different projects at the Radio Frequency and Digital Design Division at the Physical Science Laboratory, Las Cruces, N.M., USA.

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Erhard Zorn Technische Universität Berlin

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Erhard Zorn studied physics and mathematics at the Berlin Institute of Technology. After receiving his diploma in physics from the Berlin Institute of Technology, he worked as a Teaching Assistant at the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. He spent the academic year 2000-01 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. Starting in 2001, he worked as a Project Manager and lecturer at the Berlin Institute of Technology, where he is concerned with the mathematical education of engineers and physicists.

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Introductory Mathematics Computer CourseWe feel the paper fits best to:1 The Mathematics Division2 First-year Programs Division (FPD)AbstractMathematical comprehension and proficiency are some of the most important utensils of engi-neers and natural scientists. Based on the high degree of abstraction of mathematics for mostfreshmen the biggest problems in transition from high school to university appear in mathematicsfor non-mathematicians. Additionally, as opposed to high school, success at the university re-quires self-organized learning to manage the unusually high density of the syllabus. At big uni-versities this is felt especially serious, as the individual easily gets lost in the shuffle. Many uni-versities are offering “bridge courses” or preparatory courses to bridge the gap between highschool and university. At least at German universities, as far as the authors know, these are addi-tional courses and they are intended as a repetition of the mathematics that (should) have beenlearned at high school. Additionally, some courses are designed to give the freshmen the oppor-tunity to discover their strength and weakness. In order to facilitate the transition from highschool to university the Department of Mathematics offers a four-week bridge course beforeeach semester. In this course mathematics on the level of an advanced high school course is re-peated. The course consists of a daily 2h lecture plus 2h exercise. Before the summer semesterregularly 300-400 and before the winter semester 800-1000 freshmen participate in the course.Mathematics Computer CourseWe offer a so-called mathematics computer course for a part of the participants of the introduc-tory mathematics course, additionally. Two participants each work together on one computer inthe computer pool. In this two-week course the participants learn how to handle the Linux oper-ating system, the employment of a computer algebra system and obtain an introduction to the Ascientific text processing system L TEX. Mathematics as a universal tool for users is the connect-ing component. In the course exercises of the introductory mathematics course are addressed. Aproblem from the engineer’s everyday life is to be solved as final assignment, to which allknowledge obtained from the course has to be used. The course is offered since 2005 with up to200 participants before the summer semester and 400 participants before the winter semester.In several mathematics courses the students are working in the computer pool of the Departmentof Mathematics which is using the Linux operating system. Therefore, a short introduction intoLinux is integrated into the mathematics computer course. At this early stage of their academiceducation we are emphasizing the mathematical comprehension which can be supported in anideal way by a computer algebra system instead of numerical software. For mathematicians, natu- Aral scientists and engineers L TEX is the most used scientific text processing system, especiallyfor technical documents, BSc-, MSc- or PhD theses full of mathematical formula. Thus, we inte- A Agrated into the course a short introduction to L TEX. For most participants the power of L TEX isamazing and they are eager to learn more about the system. The mathematics computer coursebenefits from the freshmen’s interest in the computer employment and connects it with the im-parting and above all independent exercise of mathematics. Pupils are used to handling of thecomputer indeed and also use it as a source of information and for communication. However, theemployment as a tool for research and teachings is unfamiliar. Thus, an emphasis of the courselies in conveying the employment of the computer as a tool for research.

Jeschke, S., & Pfeiffer, O. F., & Hasan, O. M., & Zorn, E. (2012, June), An Introductory Mathematics Computer Course as a Supplement to a Mathematical Bridge Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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