Levelling up. A post Covid intervention to improve students core mathematical skills
Michael Carr, Rosarie Mc Closkey
Technological University Dublin, Ireland
TU Dublin offers students a number of different routes into engineering, allowing many non-standard entrants the opportunity to study the discipline provided they fulfil certain criteria. The final aim of many of these students is to achieve an Honours Degree in Engineering, which takes a minimum of four years. Apart from the first year of the course, the other main entry point is at the start of the third year, at which stage students who have performed well in a three-year Ordinary Degree can begin. However, these students have a wide range of mathematical abilities and prior knowledge, and many are missing the basic skills required for completion of a mathematics module at this level. In an attempt to quantify the problem, it was decided to pilot an Advanced Maths Diagnostic Test which covered many of the key concepts from the early years of Engineering Mathematics. A pass-mark of 90% was set in this assessment. 167 third-year students studying for an Honours Engineering degree were tested during the pilot study, only two of whom achieved the pass mark on the first sitting. To encourage the other students to revise this crucial material, multiple re-sit opportunities were provided, and a weighting of 10% of the continuous assessment mark for the mathematics module was given to the diagnostic test. Online resources and special classes covering the relevant material were also provided, with the result that 131 of the 167 students reached the necessary threshold by the end of the semester.
In our 2013 this process was discussed and we outline the success of this methodology to improve the core skills of students upon articulation. In 2022 we had a cohort of students who were entering 3rd year of our honours degree having spent 2/3 years of their university experience online. These students were diagnostically tested and compared with the results of the students tested 10 year previously in a pre-Covid world. We also compare the final results of the 2023 and 2013 cohorts. We the discuss the success of this methodology and it’s potential for use with students who may have been affected by Covid 19.
Future of Mathematics in the Digital Age
Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava
Engineering (service) mathematics is the art of applying maths to complex real-world problems, combining mathematical theory, practical engineering and scientific computing to address today’s technological challenges. University education can provide opportunities to experience the different aspects of theoretical sciences, work on projects in team, or to induce meta-cognitive thoughts about the processes involved, but it cannot anticipate years of experience in real engineering projects. But what university education can do is to contribute significantly to building and developing various competencies. One should not expect university education to deliver ‘full grown’ engineers. Engineering student, performing well at examinations in various maths and professional courses, is not „straight away“a good practising engineer. An ability to do engineering work comes from the “experience of working in an engineering environment” watching other engineers estimate, work out real problems, and experience how they view “the bigger picture”.
There can be recognized 3 aspects of mathematics engineering education:
- Technological issues – ICT supported education, distance learning, on-line courses and assessment, instructional materials and resources
- Didactical issues – various learning arrangements and scenarios, active learning methods, motivation, content and learning outcomes
- Mathematical understanding – conceptual understanding versus calculation skills, epistemological and hermeneutic understanding.
There is a strong evidence that students enjoy well designed web-based learning resources. Electronic courses on Internet can be very useful for a particularly easy access to various resources, discussion boards, other sources of information if necessary (the links to other sites), etc. Each student can work at her/his own place and space, and lots of additional explanatory materials are available — graphs, dynamic illustrations and visualisations, exercises and solved problems, applications, maths stories, puzzles, maths games, etc.
On the other hand, ill-considered computer aided teaching and assessment may produce frustration and anxiety, as many students are not sure whether they could understand mathematics well without face-to-face explanation and discussion with the teacher, simply, without the “human touch“ and “teacher advice”. Students are concerned about the communication with other students and teachers, they find it important to have real meetings and software that makes communication and collaboration easier and more enjoyable.
Some ideas about the possible future engineering mathematics course design in the digital age will be discussed in the paper.