MATHEMATICAL UNDERSTANDING AND ENGINEERING UNDERSTANDING: THE EXPERT PERCEPTIONS

I. Raveh, E. Trotskovsky, N. Sabag

Ort Braude College (ISRAEL)
Nowadays, teaching for understanding became a trend, nevertheless, the notion of understanding is neither unequivocal, nor well defined. Many studies deal with mathematical understanding, fewer studies address engineering thinking and understanding, very few deal with students’ perceptions of mathematical and engineering understanding, and no studies explore the experts’ view of the nature of mathematical and engineering understanding.

This article presents an ongoing study that explores how experts in engineering and mathematics in an academic college of engineering perceive engineering understanding and mathematical understanding. The participants were two experts with more than 30 years of experience in two separate fields: mathematics and mathematical education and engineering and engineering education. The research tool was a semi-structured interview, including specific and general questions regarding the participant’s perceptions of mathematical and engineering understanding. The data were analyzed according to a qualitative methodology.

The analysis of the interviews indicates different approaches of each expert to the notion of understanding. The mathematician mainly identified the notion of understanding with the question "why". He asserted that to understand is to know "why we do what we do".

The expert in engineering claimed that the notion of understanding is very fuzzy and is not well defined. In his point of view, understanding is not important, and what important are the skills and tools, which help in problem solving. Additional findings and the research conclusions will be discussed during the presentation.