# Teaching Mathematics to Engineering Essay

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# 1998 TEMPUS Publications.

Teaching Mathematics to Engineering

Students*

S. S. SAZHIN

School of Engineering, University of Brighton, Cockcroft Building, Moulsecoomb, Brighton BN2 4GL, UK

Some new ideas in teaching mathematics to engineering students and the implementation of these ideas into the teaching of mechanical engineering students at Brighton University are discussed.

The importance of explaining to the students why knowledge of mathematics is essential for their future practical work is emphasized. Mathematics is a language for expressing physical, chemical and engineering laws and general equations should be

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`touch' the boundary layer of a supersonic aircraft or the inside of a working internal combustion engine. In order to study them one needs to describe them as abstract concepts in terms of mathematical equations.

This means that mathematics is indispensable for the engineering community, but the depth of its study is bound to be limited. The best `practical' approach to mathematics is to understand it as a language for describing physical and chemical laws. From this point of view understanding an engineering problem means the conversion of this problem into a physical and/or chemical problem, and its formulation in terms of mathematical equations. Note that the fact that predictions of theory agree with observations does not necessarily mean that the theory is correct. For example,

Ptolemy's theory of the heavens was in good numerical agreement with observations over two millennia. This, however, did not prevent it from

INTRODUCTION

AN ENGINEERING student once said, `Mathematics is when numbers are put into equations'.

This statement obviously contains an element of truth. One cannot expect engineering students to perceive mathematics in the same way as professional mathematicians usually do, yet the professional engineer must acquire not only empirical but also abstract understanding of mathematics. It seems that the objective of teaching