Conceptual and procedural approaches to mathematics in the engineering curriculum : views of qualified engineers

16 Aug 2017

The research interest underpinning this paper concerns the type of mathematical knowledge engineering students may acquire during their specialised education in terms of the conceptual and procedural dimensions of doing and using mathematics. This study draws on interviews with 25 qualified engineers from South Africa and Sweden regarding their views on the role of mathematics in engineering education, with special focus on the conceptual and procedural aspects of mathematical knowledge. A thematic analysis of the interview data led to the identification of two main themes. According to the conceptual view a predominantly conceptual approach is needed and valued more than procedural skills, while the balanced view emphasises a balance of conceptual understanding and procedural fluency as well as links between them. It is suggested that the mathematical education of engineers would need to be more conceptually oriented to prepare for the demands at the workplace.