An Exploratory Study of Millennial Students' Calculus Knowledge Transfer Competency in Engineering Technology

Craig A Zehrung, Purdue University


This study is an exploratory survey of eighty-four millennial engineering technology students. The gathered data analyzed participants’ views on their required mathematics courses, and analyzed their abilities to transfer calculus knowledge to ET courses. Several different statistical methods, including matched pairs t-tests, Wilcoxon signed rank sum tests, and Pearson correlation coefficient tables, were employed.^ To gather the required data, students were asked to complete two questionnaires, and six mathematical quiz questions. One questionnaire was presented before the mathematical quiz, and the second was presented after. The quiz questions were divided into three distinct sets. Each set contained a pair of similarly defined problems, but required the students to solve one using algebra and the other using calculus. The results of this study show that millennial MET students are not able to use calculus, as adeptly as algebra, to solve MET centric quiz questions. Average algebra scores, as presented by participants, were 24.2% higher than average calculus scores. Matched pairs t-tests, and Wilcoxon signed rank sum tests show that students’ scores on the two different types of questions are statistically different from one another. ^ Information gathered by the questionnaires provides that millennial MET students do not feel a strong connection between their required mathematics courses and MET courses. Using data presented by a Pearson Correlation Coefficient Table, combined with participants’ written responses, one identified possible area of concern is the absence of real-world examples within mathematics courses. The provided correlations suggest that students feel a greater connection between their mathematics and MET courses, and feel more comfortable using calculus to solve MET quiz and exam questions, when real-world examples are provided during mathematics and MET instruction.^




Richard M. French, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Mathematics education

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