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First Steps in Strengthening the Connections Between Mathematics and Engineering

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.603.1 - 23.603.9



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Paper Authors


Kathleen A Harper The Ohio State University

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Kathleen A. Harper is a faculty lecturer in the Engineering Education Innovation Center at The Ohio State University. She received her M. S. in physics and B. S. in electrical engineering and applied physics from Case Western Reserve University, and her Ph. D. in physics from The Ohio State University. She has been on the staff of Ohio State’s University Center for the Advancement of Teaching, in addition to teaching in both the physics department and college of engineering. Her research interests address a broad spectrum of educational topics, but her specialty is in how people learn problem solving skills.

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Gregory Richard Baker Ohio State University


Deborah M. Grzybowski The Ohio State University

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Deborah M. Grzybowski is Professor of Practice in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Director of the Ohio Lions Eye Research Facility. She teaches for the First-Year Engineering Program in the Engineering Education Innovation Center at The Ohio State University. Dr. Grzybowski earned her B.S. (1980) and M.S. (1982) in Chemical Engineering and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering in 2000, all from The Ohio State University.

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First Steps in Strengthening the Connections Between Mathematics and EngineeringIt is well-documented that students have difficulty transferring their knowledge between thedomains of science, mathematics, and engineering.1-3 This lack of transfer can lead to frictionbetween these departments. Some engineering professors are tempted to blame their colleaguesin math and science for not teaching effectively or not even addressing the proper content.Conversely, colleagues in mathematics and science have been known to say that engineeringstudents do not actually try to learn the material and just plug numbers into equations. Believingthat neither case is an accurate portrayal of the situation, a first-year engineering program at alarge Midwestern university formed a task group to address the situation. The group currentlyhas representation from mathematics, physics, and 3 different engineering departments. Manymembers of the group already participate in weekly discussions focused on coordinating themath, physics, and engineering fundamentals courses taken by honors engineering freshmen atthe institution.As the task group considered various approaches to making the connections between math,science, and engineering coursework more apparent to students, it was quickly determined thatfaculty buy-in would be important. The group constructed and distributed a survey toengineering faculty throughout the College of Engineering. This survey focuses on the use ofmathematics in engineering classes, first asking faculty to rate the importance of coremathematical topics in their disciplines. It also asks for a rating of how well prepared studentsare in these areas when entering their major courses, along with how skilled they are in theseareas upon graduation. The results of this survey will indicate to the task group the areas inwhich faculty believe coordination efforts will have the most impact, helping determine the nextsteps.As of abstract submission, the survey has just been sent to the faculty. The full paper willinclude the survey, participation rate, results, and future directions indicated.1 Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L. & Cocking, R. R. ,ed, How People Learn: Brain, Mind,Experience, and School (National Academy of Science, 1999).2 Bassok, M. & Holyoak, K. J., “Interdomain Transfer Between Isomorphic Topics in Algebraand Physics,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 15, 1,153-166 (1989).3 Bassok, M., “Transfer of Domain-specific Problem-solving Protocols,” Journal of ExperimentalPsychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 16, 3, 522-533 (1990).

Harper, K. A., & Baker, G. R., & Grzybowski, D. M. (2013, June), First Steps in Strengthening the Connections Between Mathematics and Engineering Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19617

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