The Role of Mathematics in Solving Problems in Mathematics Related Subjects: A Key to Academic Success in a Vocational Engineering Field?

By Apostolos Giannakopoulos.

Published by The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 11, 2014 $US5.00

Graduation rates in engineering vocational fields around the world and in South Africa have been low for many years. The reasons for such low rates are complex but it does not stop researchers from trying to explain this phenomenon approaching from different perspectives. One such perspective is the role that mathematics plays in engineering subjects which all contain mathematics to more of a greater rather than lesser extent. An in depth study to this problem was undertaken at the University of Johannesburg using Survey as the subject a mathematics related subject. The reason for this choice is that Survey contains vast amounts of different sections of mathematics (e.g. Algebra, Trigonometry, Analytical Geometry, Geometry). First and second year cohorts were used and different samples in both subjects and the main constructs used were critical thinking, mathematical content, and application/ transfer. A mixed methods approach was necessary and for each construct a number of indicators were identified. Multivariate methods and Structural Equation Modelling were applied to analyse the results. It was concluded that critical thinking is one main factor for successful transfer while mastering of mathematical knowledge is a necessary but not sufficient success.

Keywords: Mathematics, Critical Thinking, Transfer

The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning, Volume 20, Issue 2, March 2014, pp.29-41. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 11, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.015MB)).

Dr. Apostolos Giannakopoulos

Academic support coordinator, School of Computing, University of South Africa (Unisa), Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

I was born in Greece and did completed high school and imigrated to South Africa. I worked in the private sector as a Chemist Analyst and as a design draughtsman. I studied at Unisa (a distance learning institution) and I obtained a B.Sc (mathematics, physics, applied mathematics), Higher Diploma in Education, B.Ed, Diploma in Computer Science, M.Ed and PhD in mathematics education. I taught in high schools (10 years), teachers' training college (3 years), University of Johannesburg (vocational field)(20 years) and presently I am an Academic Support coordinator (tutoring). Presently I am busy in collaborative work with well established South African researchers in various projects: Low graduation rates, success rates in programming, effect of the tutoring system, at Unisa (an Open Distance Learning Institution)My passion is Action Research in the teaching and learning of mathematics.