Engineering Problems Illustrating Mathematics: A Project of the Mathematics Division of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education

Engineering Problems Illustrating Mathematics: A Project of the Mathematics Division of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education

Engineering Problems Illustrating Mathematics: A Project of the Mathematics Division of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education

Engineering Problems Illustrating Mathematics: A Project of the Mathematics Division of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education

Excerpt

One of the enduring problems of engineering education is how to make mathematics at freshman and sophomore level interesting. At the root of the problem is the old conflict between discipline and interest that plagues other fields as well as mathematics. The alleged necessity of learning form, symbols, and manipulations before utilizing them to some useful and interesting end discourages the student: in music, for instance, the necessity of learning notes, time, and scales before playing a tune, or in mathematics, the basic concepts of the system studied, the meaning of symbols, the rigorous rules of procedure, and by drill a facility in manipulation, all before putting the mathematics to work. The problem, in my opinion, is no more insoluble in mathematics than in music, where progress has been made. It is merely more difficult.

As one step in the solution I had hoped for a more effective use of engineering problems and equations as substitutes, wherever practicable, for dry formal exercises. At least some meaning can be thus associated with the algebraic quantities; some appreciation can be thus gleaned of the fact that mathematics is used in engineering and also of the forms so used; and interest can be increased to that extent.

During the S.P.E.E. Convention at the University of Michigan in 1941 I found, everywhere I turned, a young man holding a black note- book either under his arm or in front of somebody. Eventually I became that somebody. The man was Prof. John W. Cell of North Carolina State, the book a collection of engineering problems which his S.P.E.E. Committee had compiled. He was trying to enlist recruits in the cause of getting the book into the hands of mathematics teachers in engineering colleges. Needless to say he did not have to argue his case long with me; his enthusiasm was enough, even if I had not already been convinced beforehand. So I joined him in seeking other recruits.

The S.P.E.E. is to be congratulated upon the publication of this volume and is under a debt of gratitude to Prof. Cell and his committee colleagues, who have devoted extensive thought and persistent effort to the undertaking and have made the book available, royalty-free, to teachers of mathematics.

ROBERT E. DOHERTY.

CARNEGIE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, May, 1943.

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