Integrated physics and math course for engineering students: A first experience
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This paper presents the curricular design of an integrated course of Physics and Mathematics for first-year engineering students at a large private university in northern Mexico. The innovation includes the redesign course content, teaching strategies, classroom environment, technology, and evaluation. Richard Feynman stated "The rules that describe nature seem to be mathematical". This curricular design uses mathematical laws to study physical phenomena so students can make strong predictions. This combination of mathematical and physical content uses mathematics as a powerful tool that offers the concepts and operations needed to analyze and understand physical models. The main pedagogical approach is modeling by instruction, in which students are actively engage in the processes of conjecturing, testing and thinking revision. The classroom setting consists of round tables that accommodate nine students arranged in groups of three. This setting fosters group interaction, promotes communication, empowers students, and in turn facilitates the development of learning skills such as argumentation and self-regulation. The variety of technological tools and equipment available in the classroom facilitate students' investigation of various models that were constructed based on their own observations and measurements. This is an ongoing project. This paper compares the grades of freshmen who took the integrated physics-math course and those who enrolled in separate math and physics courses. It will also present the authors' conclusions about engineering students' learning and attitudes towards physics and math, and competencies fostered by the curricular design and classroom setting. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2013.