At work recently we have been discussing which achievement stands best prepare students for careers in engineering (and the physical sciences). Some of this discussion comes out of the fact we often have students applying for entry to study in engineering* programmes with what, superficially, looks like the right number of credits – however, when we dig a bit deeper the standards that they have are less than ideal for moving comfortably into engineering related study.
As a result of such discussions our mathematics team came up with the following list of achievement standards as best preparing students:
AS91261 Apply algebra methods in solving problems External 4 credits
AS91262 Apply calculus methods in solving External 5 credits
Plus at least one of the following
AS91259 Apply trigonometric relationships in solving problems Internal 3 credits
AS91269 Apply systems of equations in solving problems Internal 2 credits
AS91257 Apply graphical methods in solving problems Internal 4 credits
AS91578 Apply differentiation methods in solving problems External 6 credits
AS91579 Apply integration methods in solving problems External 6 credits
AS91577 Apply the algebra of complex numbers in solving problems External 5 credits
Plus at least one of the following:
AS91587 Apply systems of simultaneous equations in solving problems Internal 3 credits
AS91575 Apply trigonometric methods in solving problems Internal 4 credits
So why do students end up studying less than ideal mathematics achievement standards? Is it that many students don’t decide to pursue an engineering career early enough to plan? Or do students (and schools) favour easier mathematics achievement standards? With Minister Parata pressuring schools to raise the levels of achievement standard success, and with up to a third of students being taught mathematics by teachers not formally qualified in the subject, is it just too hard to teach these achievement standards?
Whatever the answer is, if we are to increase the number of students studying the physical sciences and engineering we need to get more students studying the right achievement standards.
*Note – At work (CPIT) we teach the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering and the Bachelor of Engineering Technology.