Investigating weaknesses in the underpinning mathematical confidence of first year engineering students

Cuthbert, Ross H. & MacGillivray, Helen L. (2003) Investigating weaknesses in the underpinning mathematical confidence of first year engineering students. In Brown, Allison (Ed.) 14th Annual AAEE Conference, 29 Sept – 1 Oct, 2003, Melbourne, Australia.


The engineering community is becoming increasingly aware of the impact of the changes in mathematics education and culture throughout schooling over the past decade. Because the mathematical needs of engineering are specific and generic and immediate, and because of other pressures on engineering and engineering education, simplistic views and superficial “solutions‿ are tempting but at best hide the problem and at worst exacerbate it. The problems are complex, multi-faceted, and far-reaching. Tackling them requires understanding and identifying the essential issues, pragmatic but deepthinking approaches, honest acknowledgement by all parties of the nature and diversity of the specific and generic mathematical needs of engineering, and real collaborative work. This paper tackles some of the understanding and identification aspects within a pragmatic framework that puts student welfare always at first priority. The initial and longer term effects of different first year student backgrounds are investigated within a framework of highly-supportive first year teaching and learning strategies. The paper also discusses the design and analysis of a diagnostic test with the dual aims of contributing to student selfhelp and to development of better engineering understanding and identification of weaknesses and strengths in current student backgrounds. Although the paper demonstrates the extent of the problems, it also demonstrates both the short and long term value of constructive and careful approaches.

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ID Code: 3942
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: For more information, please refer to the conference's website (see hypertext link) or contact the author.
Additional URLs:
Keywords: mathematical underpinning, first year engineering, specific and generic mathematical skills
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > TECHNOLOGY (100000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES (010000)
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2003 (please consult author)
Deposited On: 26 Mar 2008 00:00
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2011 05:41

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