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Math Usage By Practicing Engineers: What Does It Mean To Curriculum Planners?

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Curriculums in Transition

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.892.1 - 9.892.20



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Paper Authors

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Larry Stout

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Ken Bosworth

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Brian Williams

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Habib Sadid

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Mike Ellis

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Math Usage by Practicing Engineers: What does it mean to Curriculum Planners?

Mike Ellis, Brian Williams, Habib Sadid, Ken W. Bosworth, and Larry Stout

Idaho State University


Engineering programs are constantly assessing the material required to earn an engineering degree. This assessment leads to squeezing in additional courses, often at the expense of requiring additional credits beyond that for a typical Bachelors degree. The common practice of including new material while not changing what already exists is pushing the number of required credits for an engineering degree in excess of what should be expected. A fundamental question not typically addressed is “What material should be removed from the old curriculum in order to make way for new material?” One possible method for addressing this question is to compare what is taught in academia versus what is needed by a practicing engineer. Faculty in the College of Engineering at Idaho State University have developed, administered, and analyzed a survey asking practicing engineers their usage and required conceptual understanding of certain math topics to perform their job functions. It was decided at this time to focus only on the math topics and leave the remainder of the engineering programs for future efforts. Although the survey participants are centered on the geographic area of Idaho State University (south-eastern Idaho), the topics covered in core math courses are typical of what is taught at other universities. This paper presents the results of this survey, discusses some of challenges encountered in conducting this type of evaluation, as well as some conclusions that can be supported from the data.


A National Science Foundation report expressed the following perspective on engineering education reform: “We need processes whereby curricula within existing departments can be renewed more rapidly. In addition, we need processes for more dramatic change, enabling curricula to adapt quickly to societal needs, analogous to “flexible and agile” manufacturing techniques. Just as we need mechanisms for quickly assembling new programs we need mechanisms for disassembling them when their time is past “ 1.

The United Kingdom recently established a Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN). The aim of the LTSN is to provide support to academics in order to improve the provision of learning and teaching. In 2001 the LTSN Subject Centre conducted a needs analysis survey of Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Stout, L., & Bosworth, K., & Williams, B., & Sadid, H., & Ellis, M. (2004, June), Math Usage By Practicing Engineers: What Does It Mean To Curriculum Planners? Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13697

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