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Mathematical Background Versus Success In Electrical Engineering

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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

Potpourri of Engineering Mathematics

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.894.1 - 9.894.7

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Paper Authors

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Dale Buechler

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

Session 1719

Mathematical Background Versus Success in Electrical Engineering

Dale N. Buechler Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Abstract - Part-time students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), an urban commuter campus, make up about thirty-five percent of the students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Since Engineering is only offered at a few schools in the UW System, UWM receives a large number of transfer students. We have found that a significant number of the students entering into our core electrical engineering classes do not have the proper mathematics background to succeed. This has been documented using pretests in core classes at the start of the semester. For many students there is a large gap of time between their prerequisite courses and the core engineering courses that follow. Some topics may have not have been properly covered in prior classes or if they were covered the information was not retained. This study looks at the mathematical background of students who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering over the past four years at UWM and attempts to identify sources of these problems. Final grades in the calculus series as well as in algebra (essentials of algebra, intermediate algebra, and college algebra), trigonometry, and precalculus classes were evaluated. Trends involving minimum math ACT scores and scores in the calculus series have been observed. In addition, warning signs for transfer students and part-time students have been identified. Results of this study have been shared with other urban thirteen universities to help establish the validity of these trends for urban schools with similar admissions requirements. Results of this study are being conveyed to colleagues within the Math Department to aid in the proper placement of incoming students and to colleagues within our department and college to be used to alter our programs so that students have the background they need to succeed.

Introduction Engineering education over the next decade provides numerous challenges. One of the biggest of these is the marked decrease in the mathematics proficiency of first-year college students nationwide. In 2000, nearly 15 percent of first-year engineering majors reported the need for remedial work in mathematics [1]. At the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (UWM), an urban thirteen school, we face a much bigger challenge. As part of our mission the college of engineering and applied science at UWM is striving to further academic and professional opportunities for all students including women, minority, part-time, and financially disadvantaged students. Our relatively low admission standards (top half of graduating class or ACT score of 21) provide initial access to disadvantaged students, however most are not ready for calculus upon admission. At UWM, most of our undergraduate students work at least half time and about 30% of our students work full time. UWM also receives a large number of transfer students from local technical colleges and other UW system schools without engineering programs.

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Buechler, D. (2004, June), Mathematical Background Versus Success In Electrical Engineering Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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