Preparing engineering students to take a calculus course: An engineering-oriented approach
Several national reports have discussed the importance of increasing the quality and number of engineering graduates in the United States. One segment of the population in which substantial improvements are possible is students who enter college with a declared major or interest in engineering but who need to improve their mathematical preparation before it is likely they will succeed in the first calculus course. This segment includes a disproportionately high number of Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, populations that are the focus of many efforts to diversify undergraduate engineering enrollment and the engineering workforce. Results from other initiatives suggest that an engineering emphasis in mathematical preparation can improve performance and retention of engineering students. Most engineering curriculums list Engineering Calculus I as the first mathematics course. Students not prepared academically to enter this course can often feel neglected because they may not learn any engineering concepts for another semester or two. Also, they are out of step with many of their peers, possibly including friends with whom they came to college. Their course load their first semester includes courses, such as English and Chemistry, in addition to their pre-calculus course, and the word 'engineering' is non-existent. Faculty members at Texas A&M University (TAMU) and Blinn College worked together to create an engineering approach to preparing students to take a calculus course. One of the instructors is a faculty member from the university who also teaches mathematics courses at the community college. Multiple sections of the course were taught on the TAMU campus, so the course was better synchronized with the students' schedules. Their intent is to better prepare engineering students for their first engineering calculus and increase the percentage of students being retained in engineering. This paper will describe: • The approach taken by the instructors to design the course, • The skills and topics determined to be needed for engineering calculus instead of the course simply providing a complete review of trigonometry and algebra, • The instrument used to assess readiness of students for Calculus I, • The use of engineering based activities to motivate the students. • Results for students who have completed the course. © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education.
author list (cited authors)
Shryock, K. J., Srinivasa, A. R., & Froyd, J. E.