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Teaching Mathematics and its Applications: An International Journal of the IMA Current Issue

Published: Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2017 07:49:21 GMT


Special issue: Contributions from the SEFI Working Group on Mathematics Conference 2016


SEFI (European Society for Engineering Education) is an international non-profit organization and network of institutions of higher education, whose main aim is to contribute to the development and improvement of engineering education in Europe. Mathematics, as the effective language and universal means of communication in all engineering specializations, is at the core of all engineering study programmes. Consequently, the main activities of the SEFI Working Group on Mathematics in Engineering Education are focused on how to design effective study programmes in mathematics for all engineering students. The Working Group aims to provide a forum for the exchange of views and ideas amongst those interested in engineering mathematics, in order to promote better understanding of its role in the engineering curriculum, and to foster co-operation in the development of courses and support materials. To promote these goals, the Working Group Steering Committee co-organizes bi-annual seminars in co-operation with volunteering universities across Europe. The 17th SEFI MWG seminar in Dublin in 2014 was jointly prepared by the Institute of Technology Tallaght (ITT), the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (ITB). A selection of six of the most interesting papers presented at this seminar appeared in a special issue of Teaching Mathematics and Its Applications (2015) Volume 34, Issue 2.

Applied problems and use of technology in an aligned way in basic courses in probability and statistics for engineering students–a way to enhance understanding and increase motivation


Researchers and teachers often recommend motivating exercises and use of mathematics or statistics software for the teaching of basic courses in probability and statistics. Our courses are given to large groups of engineering students at Lund Institute of Technology. We found that the mere existence of real-life data and technology in a course does not automatically increase students’ motivation or enhance their learning. Careful integration and alignment between learning activities and assessment are also needed to obtain enhanced learning. Over a number of several years we have developed a learning environment for these basic courses where engaging applied problems and technology are used in an aligned way. We give several examples of the application of the alignment concepts in teaching basic probability and statistics inference. One example describes how applications and real-life data sets, in a consulting setting, give a more positive attitude to the subject. Others concern digital resources, where online exercises and tests used in an aligned way or interactive scripts in Matlab to investigate the theory improve result in the final exam and are perceived as very helpful by the students.

Links between students’ goals and their choice of educational resources in undergraduate mathematics †


Currently, there is a dearth of studies exploring the kind of tools that undergraduates use when studying mathematics with previous approaches focusing mostly on digital or institutionally provided resources. In this article, we present and discuss the results from our investigations into the different types of tools that a cohort of second year engineering undergraduates uses. Our survey (N = 201) showed that although to some extent students use resources external to their university, their practices are dominated by tools that their institution provides to them. Analysis of six follow-up interviews revealed that when students use the most popular resources they aim mostly for exam-related goals. This suggested that students in our sample choose to use certain tools because these enable them to pursue their exam-driven goals.

Models of re-engaging adult learners with mathematics


So-called ‘Mathematics-anxiety’ can be a key inhibitor for some adult learners considering higher education. The Institute of Technology Tallaght (ITT) in Dublin hosts the ‘Centre of Expertise for Adult Numeracy/Mathematics Education’ mathematics research group which is a hub of EPISTEM, formerly known as the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning. Members of this group identified the key issues that informed the design of enabling-mathematics courses for adults returning to higher education; how to structure their re-engagement, and how to adapt the re-engagement process to practical time constraints. This article outlines how insights from the successful Primer Mathematics module for mature students taking the FLexible AccesS to Higher Education Higher Certificate in Electronic Engineering at ITT were used to identify the key elements of a model to shape such courses. How these key elements were used to design and implement a new module in preparatory mathematics for students entering all modules in ITT, as part of Certificate in Preparatory Study for Third Level, is explained. The positive impact of this new module on student learning is evaluated using student feedback. The article concludes with a discussion of the emergent strong, positive correlation between favourable progression rates for those who completed the module, compared with those who did not.

Influence of computer-aided assessment on ways of working with mathematics


This paper is based on an on-going project for modernizing the basic education in mathematics for engineers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. One of the components in the project is using a computer-aided assessment system (Maple T.A.) for handling students’ weekly hand-ins. Successful completion of a certain number of problem sets in Maple T.A. is required for being admitted to the final examination. This also gives partial credit towards the final grade. In this paper, I will look at possible influence Maple T.A. may have on the ways students engage with the mathematical problems.