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MOTIVATING ENGINEERING STUDENTS TO LEARN MATH: HINTS FROM A CALCULUS COURSE

L. Babo 1, C. Pinto 2, J. Mendonça 2, M. Zannin 3

1Polytechnic of Porto, School of Accounting (PORTUGAL)
2Polytechnic of Porto, School of Engineering (PORTUGAL)
3Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (BRAZIL)
Generation Z – iGen, students are the next generation surging to higher education. They are technology natives, used to easy access to social media, exchanging tweets, posts, shares, snaps. This high tech environment is thus powerfully changing their communication habits and education. iGen students are eager to be given opportunities to fully immerse in their educational experience. They want to have more hands-on learning, to use more technology in the classroom, to focus on creativity during class, instead of passively listen to lectures and take notes. Technology is a key player in the classroom as a tool to encourage new ideas and collaborations with traditional topics. iGen students are expecting education and educators to empower them to reach future success and to be able to solve today’s challenges in and out of class. They acknowledge they are not fully prepared for the future workplace, knowing that most of their future jobs are not created yet.

In this paper, we describe an active-learning environment used in a Calculus course attended by first year students at the School of Engineering of the Polytechnic of Porto. In the lectures, the Think-Pair-Share method was applied during the first chapters of the syllabus. In the final chapter, devoted to study and solving real problems using Calculus, students worked in teams and presented their problems to the class. In this task they used Powerpoint presentations, online tools, such as Kahoot or crossword generators to challenge the class, and flyers. They also designed a poster which was presented at a Workshop of their Bachelor Engineering Degree. In these tasks, they were evaluated by peers and by the teacher. In the practical classes, the eduScrum methodology was implemented with students working in groups to solve tasks proposed by the teacher. A questionnaire was given to the students at the end of the semester concerning their perceptions with respect to teaching methodologies, knowledge acquisition, and development of soft skills. The results reveal that students like to be challenged and enjoy active-learning environments, in which they feel strongly engaged.