Document Type

Conference Paper


This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only



Publication Details

17th SEFI Mathematics Working Group seminar, Dublin, 2014.


While students’ attainment in mathematics and their attitudes about mathematics are strongly inter-related, value is an important concept in mathematics education. It is arguable that lecturers, especially in engineering faculties, know little about the relationships students form with mathematics; for example what value do engineering students place on mathematics learning? Mathematics is often perceived as a difficult subject and it is associated with certainty and with being able to get the right answer. However the narrowness of the assessment process overshadows predictors of achievement behaviour: expectancy (am I able to do the task?) and value (why should I do the task?). At the same time lecturers are tasked with mathematically preparing students for an increasingly technological world, however for many students, the nature of a career involving mathematics is not at all clear. A significant difference between engineering education and practice is the social aspect of work compared to education. In particular engineers’ difficulty communicating mathematics is a significant weakness of engineering education. While engineering mathematics curricula often prescribe a fixed body of mathematical knowledge, this study takes a different approach; second year engineering students are additionally required to investigate and document an aspect of mathematics used in engineering practice. A qualitative approach is used to evaluate the impact students’ investigations have on their mathematics learning and whether this approach creates greater value for students compared to curriculum mathematics learning. This paper contains an account of students’ engagement with and their emotional responses to their investigations of professional engineers’ mathematics usage.