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Freshman Level Mathematics In Engineering: A Review Of The Literature In Engineering Education

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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

Bridging and Freshman Programs

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.627.1 - 13.627.18



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Paper Authors


Wendy James Oklahoma State University

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Wendy James is a PhD student in the College of Education at Oklahoma State University.
Currently she has a fellowship promoting collaboration between the College of Education and
OSU's Electrical and Computer Engineering department on an NSF funded curriculum reform
project called Engineering Students for the 21st Century. She has her M.S. in Teaching, Learning,
and Leadership from OSU, and her B.B.S. in Mathematics Education from Hardin-Simmons
University in Abilene, Texas. She has taught math and math education classes at both the high
school and college levels.

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Karen High Oklahoma State University

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KAREN HIGH earned her B.S. from the University of Michigan in 1985 and her M.S. in 1988 and Ph.D. in 1991 from the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. High is an Associate Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering at Oklahoma State University where she has been since 1991. Her main research interests are Sustainable Process Design, Industrial Catalysis, and Multicriteria Decision Making. Other scholarly activities include enhancing creativity in engineering education, critical thinking, and teaching science to education students and professionals. Dr. High is a trainer for Project Lead the Way pre-Engineering curriculum. Dr. High is involved with the development of an undergraduate entrepreneurship minor at Oklahoma State University.

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

Freshman-Level Mathematics in Engineering: A Review of the Literature in Engineering Education Abstract

Mathematics is part of the life-blood of engineering. While it is one of the essential tools for doing engineering, it is believed to be one of the confounding variables tripping students in their learning of the subject. In synthesizing the history of projects and research concerning freshman-level mathematics as studied by engineering educators, this paper provides a report of the patterns and themes engineering faculty have identified with algebra, trigonometry, and calculus and provides a call for topics in future research. Because of a lack of published, peer- reviewed journals connected to the topic, the exploration of themes in this preliminary report focused on ASEE conference proceedings papers.

The papers reviewed will be analyzed to answer the following questions: What aspects of freshman-level mathematics did the authors identify as problematic in their courses? What interventions or changes served as the impetus for publishing? What literature is being used as the context and foundation for engineers for their projects? What direction should future research take?


During the 1990s, congress, industry, and forums began to pressure universities to increase the number of engineering graduates and their knowledge and abilities for the sake of the US economy. Part of the pressure came from reports calling for reform not only of engineering education but also of undergraduate education at the nation’s research universities.1 More recently in 2002, a report by Building Engineering & Science Talent (BEST) opened with the statement, There is a quiet crisis building in the United States — a crisis that could jeopardize the nation’s pre-eminence and well-being. The crisis has been mounting gradually, but inexorably, over several decades. If permitted to continue unmitigated, it could reverse the global leadership Americans currently enjoy. The crisis stems from the gap between the nation’s growing need for scientists, engineers, and other technically skilled workers, and its production of them.2 As a result, engineering faculty have been looking at how and at what they teach in order to address this quiet crisis.

For the past two years, the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE) has trumpeted the need to establish engineering education as a rigorous-based field of study. Rising pressure in its editorials mention the need for engineering faculty to equip and develop the best pedagogical practices, make adjustments to enhance diversity, collect and employ foundational theory knowledge, switch from behaviorist to constructivist paradigms in teaching, and provide educational research that is as rigorous as their engineering-content research.3,4,5,6 Thus, there is a call for engineering faculty to develop their understanding of teaching and learning theory and its applicable practices along with developing as engineering-educational researchers.

James, W., & High, K. (2008, June), Freshman Level Mathematics In Engineering: A Review Of The Literature In Engineering Education Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3769

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: © 2008 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