Conceptual and Procedural Approaches to Mathematics in the Engineering Curriculum – Comparing Views of Junior and Senior Engineering Students in Two Countries
Christer Bergsten 1 * , Johann Engelbrecht 2, Owe Kågesten 3
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1 Linköping University Sweden2 University of Pretoria South Africa3 Linköping University* Corresponding Author


There is no consensus among educators on what type of mathematical knowledge engineering students need to develop during their formal education.One challenge for an optimal design of 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.

Material and methods:
We compare performance and confidence between second and fourth year engineering 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.

Most students were of the opinion that procedural questions are more common than conceptual questions within the mathematics curriculum, while outside mathematics conceptual questions were seen as more common than procedural questions. The mathematical training thus seems to take a different approach than how mathematics is used in the applied subjects.

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.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Article Type: Research Article

EURASIA J Math Sci Tech Ed, Volume 13, Issue 3, March 2017, 533-553

Publication date: 03 Dec 2016

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