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Rethinking Engineering Mathematics Education: A Model For Increased Retention, Motivation, And Success In 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

Curriculums in Transition

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1068.1 - 9.1068.12

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Paper Authors

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Nathan Klingbeil

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Rethinking Engineering Mathematics Education: A Model for Increased Retention, Motivation and Success in Engineering

Klingbeil, N.W., Mercer, R.E., Rattan, K.S., Raymer, M.L. and Reynolds, D.B. Wright State University, Dayton, OH, 45435

Abstract This paper describes an NSF funded initiative at Wright State University (WSU) to re- define the way in which engineering mathematics is taught, with the goal of increasing student retention, motivation and success in engineering. The approach begins with the development of a novel freshman-level engineering mathematics course (EGR 101). Taught by engineering faculty, the course will include lecture, laboratory and recitation components. Using an application-oriented, hands-on approach, the course will address only the salient math topics actually used in a variety of core engineering courses. These include the traditional physics, engineering mechanics, electric circuits and computer programming sequences. While the above core courses are traditionally reserved for the sophomore and junior years, it is proposed to move them earlier in the curriculum, with EGR 101 as the only math prerequisite. It is finally proposed to develop a new Engineering Calculus sequence to be taught by the Math department later in the curriculum, in concert with college and ABET requirements. By removing traditional math prerequisite requirements and moving core engineering courses earlier in the program, the WSU approach will entail a significant restructuring of the engineering curriculum. The result will shift the traditional emphasis on math prerequisite requirements to an emphasis on engineering motivation for math, with a just-in-time structuring of the new math sequence. While this curriculum reform initiative is still in its early stages, this paper will summarize the motivation, goals and development to date of the WSU model for engineering mathematics education.

Introduction The traditional approach to engineering mathematics education begins with one year of freshman calculus as a prerequisite to subsequent core engineering courses. However, only about 42% of incoming freshmen who wish to pursue an engineering or computer science degree at Wright State University (WSU) ever complete the required calculus sequence. The remaining 58% either switch majors or leave the University. This problem is not unique to WSU; indeed, the inability of incoming students to successfully advance through the traditional freshman calculus sequence plagues engineering programs across the country.

A 1998 U.S. Department of Education report1 has summarized the percent of college students who completed bachelor's degrees by age 30 in their intended fields, as indicated upon graduation from high school. In the combined fields of Engineering/Architecture, only 54% of men and 21.3% of women were ultimately successful. While more uniform among the sexes, the numbers in the combined fields of Computer Science/Mathematics are also discouraging, with success rates of only 38.5% for men and 32.7% for women. On the other hand, students wishing

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

Klingbeil, N. (2004, June), Rethinking Engineering Mathematics Education: A Model For Increased Retention, Motivation, And Success In Engineering Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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