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Engineering Babies In Mathematical Bathwater: The Hydrogeology "Ilap"

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.167.1 - 2.167.6

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Paper Authors

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Michael B. Kelley

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Joseph D. Myers

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John H. Grubbs

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

Session 3251

Session 3251

Engineering Babies in Mathematical Bathwater: the Hydrogeology ‘ILAP’

John H. Grubbs, Michael B. Kelley, and Joseph D. Myers United States Military Academy

Introduction: Guilty as Charged

The accusation is simple: We have allowed too many students to fall by the wayside before reaching their first engineering course because of mathematics. In effect, we have been throwing out engineering babies in mathematical bathwater. However, as much as we in the engineering community desire to throw stones, we need to realize that the problem was born on a two-way street. Until now, collectively we have done very little to improve the situation. This paper describes continuing efforts1 to effect a cultural change in the interaction between the mathematics and engineering communities. Through the use of ‘ILAPs’ - Interdisciplinary Lively Application Projects - this initiative focuses on insuring the mathematics education serves as a ‘pump’ for student success in engineering, as opposed to being a filter. An environmental engineering example of the ‘ILAP’ is presented using concepts in hydrogeology. In solving problems related to groundwater flow in their junior year elective mathematics course, cadets from the United States Military Academy who are majoring in environmental engineering learn firsthand of the linkage between mathematical concepts and engineering problem solving. The linkage established in the mathematics course is strengthened in design scenarios presented during their environmental engineering course in hydrogeology. Improved student success and increased communication between mathematics and engineering faculty are the products of the ‘ILAP’. As part of a National Science Foundation initiative known as Project Intermath, a consortium of schools has been formed to export both the ‘ILAP’ and the associated cultural change in mathematics education on a national scale.

A History of Interdisciplinary Lively Application Projects

An initiative of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the United States Military Academy in the late 1980’s attacked the age-old problem (an erroneous perception according to some, a major real problem to others) labeling mathematics education as a ‘filter’ opposing rather than a ‘pump’ assisting student success. The charge has been that many students leave the field of engineering before taking a first engineering course - largely because of a negative experience in mathematics. The department attacked the

Kelley, M. B., & Myers, J. D., & Grubbs, J. H. (1997, June), Engineering Babies In Mathematical Bathwater: The Hydrogeology "Ilap" Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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