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The Structure Of High School Academic And Pre Engineering Curricula: Mathematics

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering in High Schools

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1268.1 - 13.1268.19



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Paper Authors

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Mitchell Nathan University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Natalie Tran University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Allen Phelps University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Amy Prevost University of Wisconsin - Madison

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

The Structure of High School Academic and Pre-engineering Curricula: Mathematics


Our curriculum content analysis examines how the pre-engineering curriculum Project Lead The Way as compared to the academic curricula focus high school students’ understanding of mathematics that would prepare them for future studies and careers in engineering. We address the mathematics topics that are presented in these curricula and how the topics are sequenced and presented to students. The results of our content analyses reveal differences in the organization of the intended pre-engineering and academic curricula. The PLTW curriculum addresses far fewer mathematic content and process standards when compared to academic curricula, and also exhibit far fewer points of potential integration of mathematics knowledge than expected, given the clarion call made in recent national policy reports and the Perkins Act.

Curriculum Analysis

Curricula—the textbooks, activities and materials that make up a course— provide a critical link between standards and accountability measures, as well as serving as the primary connections between instruction and learning. Curricula shape and are shaped by the professionals teachers who use them. The curricula influence the content of the subjects being taught9 as well as the way the teaching is enacted. This investigation explores the structure of high school curricula for mathematics and for pre-engineering in order to understand the learning experiences that are intended to prepare students for future studies and careers in engineering and other technical fields. It is part of a larger collaboration between the School of Education and the College of Engineering investigating the challenges and remedies for the development of a broader, more diverse and more able pool of engineers in the US by looking at engineering education systemically as a continuous, developmental experience from post-primary education through professional practice.

The initial questions posed in the curriculum analysis research presented here are predicated on the major needs identified in the NRC (2007) report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm9: The United States must compete in the global economy by optimizing its knowledge-based resources, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and by sustaining the most fertile environment for new and revitalized industries and the well-paying jobs they bring (p. 4). In response to this report, more than 1700 high schools in 49 states are implementing new, integrated courses such as Principles of Engineering and Introduction to Engineering Design, from the nationally distributed Project Lead the Way curriculum12, which create new ways of engaging students in learning math, science and technical knowledge10. Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a four-year sequence of pre-engineering courses currently offered in 7-10 percent of America’s high schools. When combined with academic mathematics and science courses, PLTW strives to introduce students to the scope, rigor and discipline of engineering and engineering technology prior to entering college.

The structure of the high school pre-engineering curricula that students encounter is not well

Nathan, M., & Tran, N., & Phelps, A., & Prevost, A. (2008, June), The Structure Of High School Academic And Pre Engineering Curricula: Mathematics Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4357

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