Engineering students' perception of relevance of physics and mathematics
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© American Society for Engineering Education, 2016. Students' perception of the relevance of science, either in their daily or professional life, is related to their attitudes towards science. Similarly, the self-perception of students towards mathematics is closely connected to their perception of mathematics. We conducted a study in a Chilean university about engineering students' perception of the relevance of physics and math, and found that students in general do not appreciate the importance of mathematics and physics in engineering, neither as a professional career nor as a basis for other courses in their degree. We also found that first-semester students have a better perception of physics and mathematics than third-semester students and that the perception of the importance of mathematics is higher than that of physics. These and other findings have helped us to recommend some actions to the Department of Mathematics and Physics of that university. After this experience, we conducted a similar study with engineering students in a Mexican university. This study's population consisted of 1073 students taking first and third-semester physics and math courses in a large private university in Mexico. A Likert-scale instrument was used, in which students choose from a completely agree-to-completely disagree scale of statements related to the relevance of physics and mathematics to both the applicability in upper division engineering courses and the students' future career. The results of this new study shed light on four aspects: 1) students' perceptions of the relevance of physics and mathematics of scholar engineering and professional engineering practices, 2) the comparison of students' perceptions of the relevance of physics to that of mathematics, 3) semester and gender differences in those perceptions, and 4) the comparison of students' perception of the relevance of physics and mathematics in the Mexican university to that of the Chilean university. As conclusions, we present some recommendations to instructors and course designers.