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Reforming Technical Mathematics: A Collaborative Effort

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.843.1 - 6.843.6

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Robert Kimball

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

Session 3486

Reforming Technical Mathematics: A Collaborative Effort

Robert L Kimball Wake Technical Community College


The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) and the Mathematics Association of America (MAA) have called for changes in the content and methodology of mathematics education. Industry is also calling for changes—changes in the product. Industry want graduates who can think critically, communicate effectively, and solve problems using a variety of tools. This paper discusses the experiences of the author as faculty in his department have begun to implement standards-based changes to curriculum and changes in pedagogy designed to produce students who can be successful whether they decide to enter industry or to continue their education. Included is information about three National Science Foundation grants that have provided support for the process.

1. Introduction

Wake Technical Community College (WakeTCC) is a fairly large (8000 FTE) two-year college in Raleigh, NC. The math faculty has worked closely with people in industry and with faculty in the engineering technology division to provide mathematics and physics courses to meet the needs of students.

2. The Need for Change

"We never had that." You've probably heard this phrase from students as you attempted to get them to apply a mathematical topic in an unfamiliar application. We heard the phrase in physics classes; however, the instructor was sometimes the same instructor who had taught them the math only a semester or two before. As mathematics faculty talked with technology instructors, we found that indeed there was a disconnect between the mathematics courses and the applied courses. Students were having trouble applying mathematical concepts learned independently of applications. Many mathematics texts are written with material grouped into chapters that are related somehow mathematically. For example, a chapter on quadratic functions might include: Completing the Square, the Quadratic Formula, Equations in Quadratic Form, Graphs of Quadratics, and then some Applications of Quadratics. The book would then move to another chapter, perhaps on Logarithmic Functions, with the student never seeing the connections between the two types of functions. And, more importantly, the student never had to solve applications, which require the student to select the appropriate mathematical tool - not just use what they had covered earlier in the chapter.

We began to look for real applications from industry to supplement the curriculum. In so doing, it became obvious that we needed to evaluate the traditional content. The mathematical skills needed by industry cannot be supplied with a traditional algebra-based curriculum. Students

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Kimball, R. (2001, June), Reforming Technical Mathematics: A Collaborative Effort Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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