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Initial Results From A Math Centered Engineering Applications Course

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Mathematics in Transition

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.765.1 - 11.765.11



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Paper Authors


Dale Buechler University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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Assistant Professor Electrical Engineering


2007 ASEE Mathematics Division Chair-Elect

2006 ASEE Mathematics Division Program Chair

Director ASEE Mathematics Division(2003 - Present)

Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers

Outstanding Teaching Award - College of Engineering and Applied Science (2000-2001)

1999 Science and Engineering Education Scholars Program Participant


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Christopher Papadopoulos

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Assistant Professor
Civil Engineering and Mechanics


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

Initial Results from a Math-Centered Engineering Applications Course Abstract

Our school serves a diverse student population. Students of color make up 10% of the freshman enrollment in the college of engineering and applied science (CEAS) and 17% campus-wide. The majority of our incoming engineering students begin at the college algebra and trigonometry level. Unfortunately, only half of our freshman class achieves junior status. In addition, many of the students entering their core engineering classes are not retaining important mathematical concepts from their prior algebra and trigonometry coursework. To help improve engineering student retention as well as improving their retention of important techniques and concepts involving college algebra, trigonometry, and geometry, an optional hands-on one-credit pilot course was offered in Fall 2005. Topics were ordered to coincide with their concurrent college algebra and trigonometry classes. The topics included: units, trigonometry, analytic geometry, empirical modeling, exponential functions, systems of linear equations, error analysis, and approximation. The hands-on engineering experiments and demonstrations used for this course will be discussed. Additional in-class experimental assistance and tutoring was made available to the students in this class via a grant from the Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Participation (WiscAMP). The relative performance and short-term retention of these students will be reported.


Engineering education at a public urban university provides numerous challenges. Most of our incoming students who indicate an engineering major at the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) do not place into calculus upon arrival. Although many of these students covered the prerequisite material in high school, they have not retained the information. These students must complete the prerequisite mathematics courses prior to entering into the traditional first-year engineering curriculum, which in turn delays their access to core engineering courses with calculus prerequisites. Roughly half of these students never make it to their junior classes in engineering. Some drop out of school. Others become disenchanted with the long list of requirements to be completed prior to entering their engineering classes, and switch majors. To combat these problems, we have created a pilot course at the freshman level for those students placed at the level of college algebra and trigonometry. This course, which applies the math the students have just learned (or previously learned) in college algebra and trigonometry to simple engineering problems, was developed to increase the student retention of key mathematical concepts and methods and to help retain engineering students within the college.

Focusing on college algebra and trigonometry is especially important to the education and retention of students of color. Consistent with overall standardized test score results in Wisconsin, students of color at UWM tend to score lower on the mathematics placement exam. In fall 2005, twelve students enrolled in the initial offering of this pilot course. It consisted of 11 male students and 1 female student. Two of the twelve students were disadvantaged minority students.

Buechler, D., & Papadopoulos, C. (2006, June), Initial Results From A Math Centered Engineering Applications Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--733

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