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Conceptual and Procedural Approaches to Mathematics in the Engineering Curriculum: Student Conceptions and Performance
University of Pretoria.
Linköping University, Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
Linköping University, Department of Science and Technology. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
2012 (English)In: Journal of Engineering Education, ISSN 1069-4730, E-ISSN 1524-4873, Vol. 101, no 1, 138-162 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


Demands by engineering faculties of mathematics departments have traditionally been for teaching    computational skills while also expecting analytic and creative knowledge-based skills. We    report on a project between two institutions, one in South Africa and one in Sweden, that investigated    whether the emphasis in undergraduate mathematics courses for engineering students would    benefit from being more conceptually oriented than the traditional more procedurally oriented way  of teaching.


We focus on how second-year engineering students respond to the conceptual-procedural distinction,    comparing performance and confidence between Swedish and South African groups of students in answering    conceptual and procedural mathematics problems. We also compare these students’ conceptions on the  role of conceptual and procedural mathematics problems within and outside their mathematics studies.


An instrument consisting of procedural and conceptual items as well as items on student opinions on the    roles of the different types of knowledge in their studies was conducted with groups of second-year engineering  students at two universities, one in each country.


Although differences between the two countries are small, Swedish students see procedural items to be    more common in their mathematics studies while the South African students find both conceptual and    procedural items common; the latter group see the conceptually oriented items as more common in their  studies outside the mathematics courses.


Students view mathematics as procedural. Conceptual mathematics is seen as relevant outside mathematics.    The use of mathematics in other subjects within engineering education can be experienced differently    by students from different institutions, indicating that the same type of education can handle the application  of mathematics in different ways in different institutions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
American Society for Engineering Education , 2012. Vol. 101, no 1, 138-162 p.
Keyword [en]
conceptual and procedural thinking, confidence, mathematics
National Category
Engineering and Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-75283DOI: 10.1002/j.2168-9830.2012.tb00045.xISI: 000299496300008OAI: diva2:505912
Available from: 2012-02-27 Created: 2012-02-24 Last updated: 2014-11-04

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Bergsten, ChristerKågesten, Owe
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