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Contextualizing calculus with everyday examples to enhance conceptual learning
KTH, School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science (ECE), Learning.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4296-679X
KTH, School of Engineering Sciences (SCI), Mathematics (Dept.), Mathematics (Div.).
2015 (English)In: ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings, 2015, Vol. 122, no 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for SocietyConference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Many engineering students in Sweden have difficulty passing the initial mathematics courses. Teachers complain that students are ill-prepared in pre-calculus and even the best students can only solve standard problems using standard procedures. The aim of teaching in mathematics at university is to develop deep understanding of the subject and to produce conceptually trained students who can then creatively solve unforeseen problems. But how should we educate such students’ We hypothesize that the root of the problem lies in decontextualized abstract teaching. The approach adopted in this study is to introduce contextualized teaching of mathematics through concrete examples and to focus students’ attention on the role of definitions in mathematics in order to scaffold their development of conceptual understanding. The general idea is to start from the most concrete, everyday examples and work towards more abstract mathematics. By everyday examples, we mean those that can instantly be understood by the students with reference solely to their life experience. Each new concept in the course is introduced verbally, numerically, graphically, and algebraically when applicable. Everyday examples are introduced in the verbal phase of the sequence. Application examples are also used to boost the students’ motivation. Quantitative data were gathered from both a diagnostic test and the exam, and qualitative data come from a student questionnaire. The exam results show that the students in the intervention group succeeded better than the control groups. They also became more motivated and had a better grasp of abstract thinking in mathematics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 122, no 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for Society
National Category
Educational Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-174733ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84941995288OAI: diva2:860885
2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition; Washington Convention CenterSeattle; United States

QC 20151014

Available from: 2015-10-14 Created: 2015-10-07 Last updated: 2015-10-14Bibliographically approved

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