Conceptual and procedural approaches to mathematics in the engineering curriculum – comparing views of junior and senior engineering students in two countries

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 17
  • Abstract:

    One challenge for an optimal design of the mathematical components in engineering education curricula is to understand how the procedural and conceptual dimensions of mathematical work can be matched with different demands and contexts from the education and practice of engineers. The focus in this paper is on how engineering students respond to the conceptual-procedural distinction, comparing performance and confidence between second and fourth year groups of students in their answers to a questionnaire comprising conceptually and procedurally focused mathematics problems. We also compare these students’ conceptions on the role of conceptual and procedural mathematics problems within and outside their mathematics studies. Our data suggest that when mathematical knowledge is being recontextualised to engineering subjects or engineering design, a conceptual approach to mathematics is more essential than a procedural approach; working within the mathematical domain, however, the procedural aspects of mathematics are as essential as the conceptual aspects.