A Problem Solving Based Approach to Learn Engineering Mathematics

  • Nasim MuhammadEmail author
  • Seshasai Srinivasan
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 1134)


In this work we present the outcome of a problem solving based approach interlaced with different frequency of assessments as well as the duration of the course in a first year engineering mathematics subject. The experiment was performed with about 280 students split into various cohorts. For each cohort, the content was the same, i.e., differential calculus and its application. In the problem solving based strategy that was used in the cohorts, the students participated in weekly problem solving sessions wherein a set of questions were solved by students in groups of 3–5. The students were allowed to interact with their peers, the instructor as well as a qualified teaching assistant. The weekly problems were selected such that the students had to routinely recall the concepts and apply them to solve problems, thereby reinforcing the concepts and aiding in learning the material better. By using the problem solving based approach, the performance of the students, assessed via periodic term tests, was very satisfactory and much better than the average first year score of the students across all the courses that they take. Imbibing the same learning environment into the cohorts that went through the content in 6 weeks resulted in a 10% decrease in the performance of the students, indicating that there is an incubation period during which the learning happens that cannot be fast-tracked. Finally, in determining whether this can be improved by administering more frequent tests in the 6-week format, forcing students to be more regular in their studies in the 6-week course, it was found that the gains are only marginal.


Problem solving Mathematics Classroom practice 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology, McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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