An exploration of attainment in leaving cert mathematics, and correlation, if any, with progression from first year civil engineering in GMIT
The ‘Mathematical Problem’ has been reported and discussed extensively in Ireland and internationally for the last twenty years. This problem relates to students entering numerate disciplines, such as Engineering, and the decline in basic mathematical skills and level of preparation on entry into Higher Education. This decline presents a major challenge for mathematical based degree courses. This paper reports on a case study of progression in first year of the Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering Ordinary degree programme (Level 7) in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). This study analysed progression for the three previous academic years (2009-12) to determine if there was any correlation between progression and prior attainment in the Leaving Certificate Mathematics. Interview records of students who registered for the programme, conducted annually during induction, formed the basis for the study. The students who progressed from first year were also surveyed to determine their opinions on progression and measures to improve non-progression in first year. A review of strategies related to mathematics, adopted by other Engineering programmes, to improve progression is also considered. The analysis of progression, for this case study, suggests a strong correlation between attainment in mathematics in the Leaving Certificate and progression in first year of the Civil Engineering programme in GMIT. Furthermore, the research suggests that students with low attainment (less than B in Ordinary Level) are unlikely to progress beyond first year. The survey of the students, who did progress, indicated that they are acutely aware of the importance of mathematical competency in engineering. The results of this study make a compelling case for the introduction of a minimum entry requirement for LC mathematics for admission to the Civil Engineering programme in GMIT.
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