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Improving Retention Of Calculus By Engineering Students In Small Programs

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.673.1 - 8.673.8



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Paper Authors

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John Baker

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David Silverstein

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

Session 2793

Improving Retention of Calculus by Engineering Students in Small Programs

David L. Silverstein, John R. Baker University of Kentucky


Students in engineering and the sciences often complete their studies in mathematics before they have an opportunity to develop an appreciation for the application of mathematical concepts in their major field. All of the required topics are covered in the math courses students successfully complete, but when asked to apply the concepts learned in courses taken a year or more prior to application, they are often surprised to discover that they actually needed to know how to apply seemingly abstract techniques to real science and engineering problems. This shortfall in retention leads to additional work on the student's behalf and often a slowdown in the progress of a class to ensure adequate time is spent on a topic. While the responsibility to learn this material lies with the student, it nonetheless impacts the quality of the student's education.

This project is designed to address the problem by modifying student attitudes towards learning calculus by presenting examples in the context of engineering and science problems. The examples would be adapted from the actual sorts of problems engineers and scientists will encounter later in their course of study, but presented with all the emphasis on applying concepts currently being covered in the student's calculus class. The implementation is not intended to make the course “Calculus for Engineers”, but instead will augment the general theoretical approach with relevant source material for examples.

The results of this project would be applied initially to calculus courses being taught to support the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Engineering Extended Campus in Paducah. Mathematics instructors with Paducah Community College (PCC) will adapt in-class examples from material provided by UK chemical and mechanical engineering faculty, distribute additional materials, and make use of web-based materials developed as a part of this project.

The primary expected outcome is that students taking courses requiring application of calculus concepts would enter the course expecting to use calculus and better prepared to apply advanced mathematics to engineering problems. The success of the project will be assessed over a period of 3-5 years using examinations designed to assess preparedness in

Baker, J., & Silverstein, D. (2003, June), Improving Retention Of Calculus By Engineering Students In Small Programs Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11533

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