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Engineering Students' Perception of Relevance of Physics and Mathematics

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Engineering Physics Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Genaro Zavala Tecnologico de Monterrey and Universidad Andres Bello Orcid 16x16

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Professor of the Physics Department at the Tecnologico de Monterrey. He is a member of the National Research System in Mexico and is the leader of the Physics Education Research and innovation Group. He has 74 papers in journals and proceedings, 6 books, 8 book chapters, 137 presentations in Mexico, Korea, Denmark, Hungary, Cuba, United States, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina and 26 workshops in Mexico, Chile and Argentina. He has participated obtaining projects funded by the European Consortium of Innovative Universities, HP Development Company, Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo and the University of Arizona. He is a member of the Mexican Council of Educational Research, Vicepresident of the Latin American Physics Education Network (LAPEN), coordinator of the Evaluation of Learning and Instruction Topical Group within the International Research Group on Physics Teaching (GIREP for French); member of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) in which he was member and president of the International Committee (2006-2008), president of the committee in 2008, member and president of the Philanthropy Committee (2011-2013), member of the Membership and Benefits Committee (2012-2015), founding president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Mexican section. In the AAPT he is currently a member of the Research in Physics Education Committtee (RiPE) and elected member of the Physics Education Research Leadership Organizing Council (PERLOC). He is a member of the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) Network on Information Technology, and coordinator of the Science Education Community of the Corporación Universitaria para el Desarrollo del Internet (CUDI). The main area of interest of Prof. Zavala is Physics Education Research in which he studies students’ conceptual understanding, designs and implements assessment tools in education, researches on the use of technology in the classroom and conducts research on the acquisition of skills by university students in active learning environments.

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Angeles Dominguez Tecnologico de Monterrey and Universidad Andres Bello Orcid 16x16

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Angeles Dominguez is a Professor of the Department of Mathematics within the School of Engineering, a researcher at the School of Education, and the Chair of the Master of Education at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico. Also, she is currently collaborating with the School of Engineering at the University Andres Bello at Santiago, Chile. Angeles holds a bachelor degree in Physics Engineering from Tecnologico de Monterrey and a doctoral degree in Mathematics Education from Syracuse University, New York. Professor Dominguez is a member of the Researchers’ National System in Mexico (SNI) and currently she is the President of Red de Investigación e Innovación en Educación del Noreste de México (REDIIEN). Angeles has been a visiting researcher at Syracuse University, at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches undergraduate courses in Mathematics and graduate courses in Education. Professor Dominguez is a thesis advisor on the master and doctoral programs on education at the Tecnologico de Monterrey. Her main research areas are: a) models and modeling, b) use of technology to improve learning and c) evaluation. In addition, Professor Dominguez is the coordinator of the conTIgo T3 Latin America group that focuses on an effective and efficient use of the Texas Instrument technology in the mathematics and science classroom, and is member of the Executive Committee of international association (ASEE-EPPD and ICTMA).

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Students’ perception of the relevance of science, either in their daily or professional life, is related to their attitudes towards science. Similarly, the self-perception of students towards mathematics is closely connected to their perception of mathematics. We conducted a study in a Chilean university about engineering students’ perception of the relevance of physics and math, and found that students in general do not appreciate the importance of mathematics and physics in engineering, neither as a professional career nor as a basis for other courses in their degree. We also found that first-semester students have a better perception of physics and mathematics than third-semester students and that the perception of the importance of mathematics is higher than that of physics. These and other findings have helped us to recommend some actions to the Department of Mathematics and Physics of that university. After this experience, we conducted a similar study with engineering students in a Mexican university. This study’s population consisted of 1073 students taking first and third-semester physics and math courses in a large private university in Mexico. A Likert-scale instrument was used, in which students choose from a completely agree-to-completely disagree scale of statements related to the relevance of physics and mathematics to both the applicability in upper division engineering courses and the students’ future career. The results of this new study shed light on four aspects: 1) students’ perceptions of the relevance of physics and mathematics of scholar engineering and professional engineering practices, 2) the comparison of students’ perceptions of the relevance of physics to that of mathematics, 3) semester and gender differences in those perceptions, and 4) the comparison of students’ perception of the relevance of physics and mathematics in the Mexican university to that of the Chilean university. As conclusions, we present some recommendations to instructors and course designers.

Zavala, G., & Dominguez, A. (2016, June), Engineering Students' Perception of Relevance of Physics and Mathematics Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26664

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