The teaching of mathematics in engineering courses has been problematic. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the lack of preparedness of students entering engineering studies. This paper gives the results of a pilot study which aims to mitigate this situation
The purpose of this study was to make use of the latest knowledge in human cognition to improve the mathematics outcomes of engineering students. In particular it makes use of two concepts, working memory limitation and practice, to improve mathematics outcomes.
The study was run over two semesters with the first year students who were studying Engineering Mathematics 1 on the Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BET) program at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT). The teaching of the course was structured so as to take the students’ working memories into account and in such a way as to make use of the modern ideas on students’ practice with the mathematical material. The students were assessed at the start of the course and then again at the end of the course. The effect size of the student improvement was then evaluated.
The paper shows that this pilot study indicates that taking working memory and structured practice into account the outcomes of the students were enhanced. Numerical data is presented to support this conclusion.
Although the results of this pilot study were encouraging the study used relatively small student numbers (a total of 22 students) and therefore needs to be repeated: preferably by a different polytech. In addition the study highlights some structural problems with the Engineering Mathematics 1 curriculum that are resistant to improving with modified teaching techniques. The paper therefore makes some recommendations on how the overall curriculum should be developed.
Mathematics teaching, working memory, practice based learning.