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Comparison Of Math Skills To Final Course Grade In A Math Intensive Dynamic Systems Course

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Integrating Math in Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.308.1 - 8.308.4



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Paper Authors

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Janet Brelin-Fornari

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Comparison of Math Skills to Final Course Grade in a Math Intensive Dynamic Systems Course

Janet Brelin-Fornari Department of Mechanical Engineering Kettering University


Engineering students utilize basic math skills in all engineering courses, some courses more than others. Dynamic Systems I (MECH 330) students must apply knowledge from trigonometry, calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra to develop mathematical equations which define a dynamic system (electrical, mechanical, and/or fluid). The defining differential equations are then solved. System characteristics are extracted from the mathematical equations and can be analyzed to understand and control the system’s behavior. Since MECH330 is mathematically intensive, a math review (covering the subjects specific for the course) is given on the first and/or second course meeting. Subsequently, a math skills test is given on the third course meeting. Over several semesters, scores on the math skills test were correlated to the student’s final course grade. With nearly 200 students studied, the data indicates that students who do well on the math skills test do not necessarily do well in the course. But, students who do well in the course, do well on the math skills test.


In a recent curriculum change at Kettering University, three (3) courses, Mechanical Vibrations, Systems, and Controls were combined into two courses, Dynamic Systems I and Dynamic Systems II with Lab1. With a decrease of lecture contact hours with the students, from ten hours to eight, the material from the original three courses were evaluated for redundancies and syllabus subjects were reduced. Dynamic Systems I within the new curriculum, focuses on mathematical modeling of uni- and multi- discipline systems involving electrical, fluid, and mechanical (linear and angular motion) systems. The subsequent mathematical models (differential equations) are evaluated in the time domain. Since multidiscipline systems are analyzed, Dynamic Systems I has several prerequisites and corequisites namely Mechanical Dynamics, Circuits, Fluids, and Differential Equations. A prerequisite course of Numerical Methods is being added in 2003.

With many higher math concepts used in the system modeling process, it was deemed necessary to evaluate the students mathematical skills with some sort of pretest or posttest (in a previous course). Since Dynamic Systems I was first in the systems course thread, a pretest was chosen. The students are given a written and two to three hour lecture review of the higher math concepts focused on in the course, mainly matrix math, solutions of 1st and 2nd order linear differential

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Brelin-Fornari, J. (2003, June), Comparison Of Math Skills To Final Course Grade In A Math Intensive Dynamic Systems Course Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12465

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