Document Type

Conference Paper


This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only


Applied mathematics, 2. ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY, *pedagogy

Publication Details

INTED2008. International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Valenica, Spain


In Dublin Institute of Technology, historically, numerical methods were taught to engineering students using a format of traditional mathematics lectures, to a large class group consisting of students from five different engineering disciplines, complemented by small class tutorials. Assessment was by a single, written exam only.

In order to improve the overall effectiveness of the students’ learning experience, it was deemed beneficial to also introduce practical computing classes in which the students would be required to apply the general mathematical methods covered in lectures to discipline-specific examples.

Three different practical computing assignments were devised for the students to undertake, and 20% of the marks for the course were allocated to these assignments. The numerical problems considered were the solution of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) and partial differential equations (PDEs) using the finite-difference method; the solution of first-and second-order ODEs using Runge–Kutta; and the solution of first- order ODEs using Milne-Simpson.

It was hoped that students would find this integrated approach engaging and formative in their understanding of numerical methods and their application to real-world engineering problems. To ascertain if this was the case, an anonymous, online survey of the students involved was conducted, along with a number of interviews of individual students. In addition, a comparison was carried out between these students’ grades, and grades from years prior to the introduction of the practical computing classes. The results of both the survey and the grade analysis will be presented in this paper.