Asee peer logo

Engineering Students’ Mathematical Thinking: In The Wild And With A Lab Based Task

Download Paper |

Conference

2007 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

13

Page Numbers

12.652.1 - 12.652.13

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/2984

Download Count

28

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Monica Cardella Center for the Advancement of Scholarships on Engineering Education (CASEE)

visit author page

MONICA CARDELLA is a CASEE (Center for the Advancement of Scholarship in Engineering Education) Postdoctoral Engineering Education Researcher at the Center for Design Research at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering at the University of Washington where she was a Graduate Research Associate at the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching (CELT). Dr. Cardella’s research interests include engineering education, engineering design, mathematical thinking, and sketching.

visit author page

biography

Cynthia Atman University of Washington

visit author page

CYNTHIA ATMAN is the founding Director of the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching (CELT) in the College of Engineering at the University of Washington and the Director of the NSF funded Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). Dr. Atman is a Professor in Industrial Engineering. Her research focuses on design learning and engineering education.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Engineering Students’ Mathematical Thinking: In the Wild and with a Lab-based Task

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 industry- based 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 practices1 . Additionally, Atman and Bursic’s design process coding scheme 2 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.

Motivation from the literature Mathematics has been a central part of engineering throughout the history of the profession3 , as well as a typical part of an engineering curriculum. The reasons for its inclusion, however, and stakeholders’ perceptions on why it is included, are varied. Some students believe that they take mathematics courses simply because the mathematics courses act as a gatekeeper, ensuring that only the brightest students are able to take engineering courses, while other engineering students view mathematics as one of the many tools that are at an engineer’s disposal4 .

Cardella, M., & Atman, C. (2007, June), Engineering Students’ Mathematical Thinking: In The Wild And With A Lab Based Task Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2984

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015