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Early Bird Teach Mathematics Before Problems Arise

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Innovative Instructional Strategies

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Page Count


Page Numbers

13.456.1 - 13.456.9



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Paper Authors

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Sabina Jeschke University of Stuttgart


Akiko Kato Technische Universitaet Berlin

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Akiko Kato studied physics, computer science and human medicine, and received both her Diploma in 1999 and her Ph.D. in 2004 in physics from the Berlin Institute of Technology.
She wrote her dissertation in the field of statistical physics and quantum-thermodynamics. She has been doing research and teaching mathematics and physics at the same university since 1997, from 1997-1999 as a student assistant, from 1999-2004 as a research assistant and since 2006 as a postdoctoral researcher and assistant lecturer.
Her recent field of research is focused on new didactic and educational methods in teaching mathematics and engineering sciences.

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Olivier Pfeiffer Technische Universitaet Berlin


Erhard Zorn Technische Universitaet Berlin

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Erhard Zorn studies 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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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

EARLY BIRD – Teach mathematics before problems arise Abstract

Mathematical knowledge and abilities are among engineers’ most important tools and are often needed in introductory classes before the relevant topics can be offered in the mathematics classes. The compromise most often used by doing a digression in the non-mathematical classes is neither very satisfying for students and teachers nor is it especially successful.

We introduce the “Early Bird” project allowing beginners to use the often unused period between “Abitur” (German high-school graduation) and beginning of studies in the winter term for attending the mathematics modules of the first semester (Linear Algebra and Calculus I) before the official beginning of studies. With this project, students have the in-depth mathematical knowledge at their disposal considerably earlier. Students of engineering can reduce the duration of their education in mathematics by one semester by preponing the mathematics classes of higher semesters as well.

1. Motivation

Mathematics is one of the most important foundations for engineering. From the first semesters on a sound knowledge in mathematics is necessary for being successful in the basic subjects of engineering (e.g. mechanics, physics, thermodynamics etc.). Problems in topics using mathematics will occur whenever mathematical knowledge is needed that a thorough mathematical education can provide not until later. Because of the existing curricula it is not possible to realize a preparatory part of studies that is only devoted to the mathematical education. This also interferes with the legitimate wish of engineering students to identify with the actual engineering topics early and by that not to reduce the motivation in those fields of study that leave little space for the “actual” topic because of many service courses from other fields (not only mathematics). In practice the solution most often used is to do digressions that most of the time can only provide calculation rules that make a schematic treatment of special problems possible. This well-intentioned procedure is usually frustrating for students because they do (can) not understand the reasons for their calculation rules. Whereas every teacher in the mathematics service knows the situation, where students understand those recipe-like introduced concepts belatedly and ask the question why the actual facts have not been explained to them earlier.

2. The “Early Bird”-course

For at least some of the students that begin their studies with the winter term (about one third of the students begin their studies with the summer term) the time between Abitur and the start of the winter term offers a solution for this dilemma. Engineering students will attend (with rare exceptions) the modules Linear Algebra and Calculus I in their first semester. These modules can be offered in a concentrated version before the beginning of the winter term in the semester break before the actual enrollment. Because most of the mathematics service classes are offered every semester (except for one module for electrical engineers is offered in the summer term

Jeschke, S., & Kato, A., & Pfeiffer, O., & Zorn, E. (2008, June), Early Bird Teach Mathematics Before Problems Arise Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4400

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