June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
11.693.1 - 11.693.9
How Does High School Mathematics Prepare Future Engineers?
Mathematics instruction in high schools varies widely across the country, but movement toward high stakes testing has had undoubted influence on curricular content. In addition, the availability of high tech calculators to students has influenced activities in the classroom and on the test. Research holds that mathematics can act as a strong predictor of future college success. What mathematical concepts are future freshman engineering students taught in high school and are they sufficient preparation for the rigors of an engineering curriculum? This paper will take an introductory look at these questions by examining the North Carolina approach to high school math, through the Standard Course of Study, by selected classroom snapshots and by assessment of selected mathematics skills of college freshmen.
Experience working with teachers1 has show that it is common for teachers at one level to not be aware of what math is taught at the previous and next levels, including the transition from high school to college. In addition, high stakes testing is having a definite impact on high school classroom teaching, and the results are as yet unknown. The increasing use of technology, in the form of graphing calculators, in the classroom, is also having an impact. Research shows that technology can help in conceptual understanding, but does it shift the focus away from basic skills? In addition, other issues such as block scheduling, variability across the state of course offerings and textbooks play a role in what high school mathematics students are exposed to. Less emphasis in the classroom is placed on mathematical algorithms and procedures and how math ideas connect to one another than on solving specific types of problems and learning mathematical concepts2.
2.0 Construction of experiment
The question of mathematical preparation is very broad and not easily answered without complex examination of goals, objectives and methods. A snapshot, however, is easier to obtain and can lend insight into this difficult question. The researchers in this experiment chose to set it up as follows. One high school class was chosen that contains a large number of learning objectives that are important in a wide variety of engineering courses. Of the material in that course, four objectives were chosen from the standard course of study for closer examination. Teachers with varying degrees of experience in teaching in Wake County, North Carolina public schools were chose for interview. In addition, freshman engineering students were asked to assess themselves on the skill encompassed in the chosen objectives through answering test questions and then self-analyzing their results.
Bottomley, L., & Hollebrands, K., & Parry, E. (2006, June), How Does High School Mathematics Prepare Future Engineers? Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/1119
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