Mathematical Understanding vs. Engineering Understanding: Engineering Students’ Perceptions

Ira Raveh, Elena Trotskovsky, Nissim Sabag


The current study explores how BSc engineering students at an academic college of engineering perceive engineering and mathematical understanding and the interrelationships between them. The theoretical framework for this research includes three main aspects of engineering and mathematical understanding: procedural, conceptual, and applicable. The participants were thirty BSc students from different engineering disciplines who answered a four-open-items questionnaire that included three questions dealing with specific mathematical and engineering subjects and one general question. Content analysis of the students' answers revealed that all three aspects were reflected in the students' answers. More responses were recognized in student answers to the specific questions than to the general question. The procedural aspect was very prominent among the students’ responses to the specific mathematics and engineering subject. Regarding the answers to the general question, it can be induced that students possess general perceptions of mathematic understanding as procedural and conceptual, but not applicable; and engineering understanding as conceptual and applicable, but not procedural. Concerning relationships between mathematical and engineering understanding, more than one third of the students claimed that mathematics is a tool for engineering; yet, at the same time, not even one student addressed applicable aspects of mathematical understanding in the general question. This fact stresses the students’ detached general perception of mathematical understanding as not applicable.

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International Research in Higher Education  ISSN 2380-9183 (Print)  ISSN 2380-9205 (Online)

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