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A preliminary investigation of student collaboration to create resources that motivate the relevance of mathematics to first year engineers A preliminary investigation of student collaboration to create resources that motivate the relevance of mathematics to first year engineers HOT

BACKGROUND  

Many engineering students don’t see the relevance in their mathematical studies in the first year of their degree. This lack of understanding of the importance of mathematics often leads to a loss of interest and disengagement with mathematical studies early on. It may also result in the need to re-teach first year mathematical concepts in later engineering subjects as the students did not acquire the skills from their mathematics subjects. 

PURPOSE 

In this paper, we report on a summer semester project that gave final year engineering and multi-media students the task to “make mathematics relevant” to first year students. The collaboration that ensued across disciplines resulted in two high quality animated videos, one on the use of mathematics in building construction and the other on improving the aerodynamical properties of a vehicle. In this paper, we provide an initial investigation into the interdisciplinary collaboration between the final year students who produced the resources, from the point of view of the engineering students. We want to closely follow student views to understand better what contribution students can make to the production of resources for first years.  

In particular, we answer the two research questions 

  1. How did the engineering students approach their brief and how did they collaborate?
  2. How did their thoughts evolve following interaction with the multi-media students and how did they collaborate with the multi-media students? 

DESIGN/METHOD  

In this case study we use an ethnographic design approach to understand the students’ experiences. This qualitative research study includes the evaluation of an interview with the two engineering students held while the students were working on the project, complemented by researcher observations. 

RESULTS  

We show how final year engineering students have collaborated with each other, and with multi-media students, to produce quality video resources for their peers. In fact, we argue that it is the interdisciplinary nature of the collaboration that resulted from the addition of the multi-media students to the team that has resulted in high quality resources. 

CONCLUSIONS  

This study is a first step to research student contribution to demonstrating the relevance of mathematics. We provide a preliminary evaluation on Stage 1, the first iteration resulting in two resources produced, with more analysis (also including the multi-media students’ perspective) to be communicated elsewhere once all data is analysed. Stage 2 of our project has just commenced, with the next cohort of engineering and multi-media students collaborating on resources to explain the relevance of first year mathematics in robotics and biomedical engineering. Following our very positive experiences, we call for more research in this area! 

KEYWORDS  

mathematics relevance, first year, student contribution, multi-media, animation 

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Created 2016-11-13
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Created by Lynette
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