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Math Curriculum in a Set of K-5(8) and K-12 STEM Pre-Engineering Teacher Preparation Programs

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Certifying Teachers in Engineering or Integrated STEM

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1045.1 - 22.1045.15



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Paper Authors


Stephen O'Brien College of New Jersey

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Dr. O'Brien is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Technological Studies within the School of Engineering at The College of New Jersey.

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Math curriculum in a set of K-5(8) and K-12 STEM pre-engineering teacher preparation programsOur institution supports both a K-5(8) STEM teacher preparation program as well as a(secondary) pre-engineering / STEM teacher preparation program. Both programsrequire substantial coursework in all four elements of STEM, as well as integrated-STEM(i.e.- how to use multiple STEM elements together in curriculum/activities). We believethat quantitative skills (aptitude and affect) are critically important for both programs.For example, both affect and aptitude are largely determined by the middle school years.Therefore, our K-5(8) graduates need to be very effective at teaching and motivating theirstudents in quantitative/mathematical skills. Also, because most K-5(8) teachers arefemale, and because female students bond closely with female teachers, if female K-5(8)teachers are anxious or uncomfortable with math then these anxieties will be passed ontotheir female K-5(8) students. Our teacher preparation programs consist of a relativelylarge level of female students so if we can find an effective method for reducing anxietyand increasing comfort and aptitude in math then this will have an amplified effect in K-12, simply due to the large number of students that pass through a teachers classroomover their career. Additionally, as the nation’s industrial arts/shop curriculum transitionsinto problem solving oriented technology education / pre-engineering programs, ourgraduates need the quantitative analytical skills to more fully engage their (primarily)grades 6-12 students. This goal of achieving higher quantitative skills in our teacherpreparation populations is also very consistent with numerous recent reports that describecompromised math and science skills in USA’s K-12 student population. Someinteresting statistics on the failure of the K-12 system can be found simply by looking atthe number of remedial math courses that need to be supported nationwide byCommunity Colleges. However, these lack of quantitative skills are certainly not lost on4-year colleges.In 2006, with the help of an external advisory board, we completed a redesign of ourcurriculum to integrate more M&S into our T&E-dominated curriculum (the result beinga “pre-engineering” curriculum). Our curricular changes with respect to additional mathcan be divided into the following two categories: (i) additional math distributed throughout several courses and (ii) a stand-alone course we call “Engineering Math.” Each ofthese two areas are described in more detail below. (1) Distributed math: The content portion of our curriculum is divided into three strands; (i) Design, (ii) Mechanical and (iii) Electrical. Additional math has been included in all three strands. However, most of the additional math has been incorporated into the mechanical and electrical strands. [Some of the additional math certainly comes in via close association with added science; the two are rightfully inextricably linked at times.] Examples, of the math in these strands are probability (applied to human factors), vectors (static forces), binary number system, Boolean algebra, logic, and the math surrounding a variety of science applications such as ballistics, rotational motion, electric forces and Ohms Law. A mapping of this additional math distributed across our curriculum will be presented. (2) Engineering Math: We believed that our students need focused time on quantitative skills so we designed an “engineering math” course that is taken by the majority of our students. Many of our students tend to have fairly high math-SAT scores and also get A’s in college- level calculus, so one might conclude that they are quantitatively literate. However, our experience tells us that this is not the case. It is our observation that students are adept at memorizing math processes, many of which are easily forgotten. Not surprisingly, however, our students (and we believe most students) are not adept at, or comfortable with, applying the math that they do know in real-world situations. This leads to the title of our course, “Engineering Math,” where the focus is on applying math not simply learning additional, and unused, math processes. In this class we purposefully cover a variety of applications. This adds to the interest/motivation level of the class but also allows specific mathematics topics to be encountered. Application areas include civil engineering, blood/fluid flow, education (grading, assessment/evaluation and education research), genetics, electronics, finance (time value of money) and chemistry. Math topics covered include large/small numbers, trigonometry, units analysis, measurement, probability & statistics, Excel/structured programming, rates-of-change and exponential functions. Sprinkled throughout this course are a series of active “labs,” where the students are typically required to solve more open-ended problems, which at times requires the students to enter the wild outdoors to complete a math activity. Over 140 students have taken this course over 7 semesters. A detailed description of the design of this course will be given.Assessments indicate that our “T&E curriculum” is having an impact on math capabilityand affect. For example, the level of math anxiety of our K-5(8) students dropsdramatically as they progress through the curriculum. This is true even for asubpopulation of K-5(8) students that have chosen to take a specialization in T&E,resulting is fewer classic math (and science) courses taken by the math (science)department. Additional assessments of the Engineering Math students also indicate thatstudents are more comfortable with applying math in their real world.

O'Brien, S. (2011, June), Math Curriculum in a Set of K-5(8) and K-12 STEM Pre-Engineering Teacher Preparation Programs Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18326

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