ArticlePDF Available

Students’ Engagement with the Science and Engineering Integrated Calculus Tasks


Enes Akbuga
Texas State University
Calculus acts as a filter to the STEM pipeline, which blocks students’ access to
STEM careers (Steen, 1987). Therefore, a strong foundation and understanding of
calculus concepts is an important requirement for all STEM degrees (Young et al., 2011).
Students who are engaged during learning activities, achieve better grades and
educational activities are positively related to academic performance (Kuh et al., 2008).
Schools should provide opportunities to learn about mathematics by working on
problems arising in contexts outside of mathematics (NCTM, 2000). Literature shows
tendency towards integrated science and mathematics education; however, more
empirical research grounded in these theoretical models is clearly needed (Berlin & Lee,
2005). Therefore, this study aims to investigate the following question;
- How students engage with the Science and Engineering Integrated Calculus
The Science and Engineering Integrated Calculus Tasks refers to the calculus
tasks that are science and engineering related in nature. Since this study was a small-scale
study for those tasks, physics and computer science tasks were selected and piloted.
Participants were students who were enrolled to calculus courses at a Southwestern
university in the U.S. Data come from task-based interviews involving the participants
working on the tasks.
Strong evidence showed that the tasks supported the participants in connecting
physics and science to calculus. One participant states that:
It’s to me it’s coming up, its creating and designing a solution to
something that could be a real-world problem and so I think that I think
that adds more to the experience. It certainly gives a lot. Like I feel like I
am doing something I feel like I am not just doing a bunch of math you
Evidence shows that the tasks were interesting and enjoyable for the participants
and that they felt motivated through this experience. This finding suggests that
interdisciplinary approaches might increase students’ engagement and thus contribute to
positive learning experiences with calculus.
Berlin, D. F., & Lee, H. (2005). Integrating Science and Mathematics Education: Historical Analysis.
School Science and Mathematics, 105(1), 15-24.
Kuh, G. D., Cruce, T. M., Shoup, R., Kinzie, J., & Gonyea, R. M. (2008, October). Unmasking the effects
of student engagement on first-year college grades and persistance. The Journal of Higher
Education, 79(5).
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2000). Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.
Reston, VA, United States of America.
Steen, L. (1987). Calculus for a new century: A pump not a filter. Mathematical Association of America,
MAA Notes (8).
Young, C. Y., Georgiopoulos, M., Hagen, S. C., Geiger, C. L., Dagley-Falls, M. A., Islas, A. L., . . .
Bradbury, E. E. (2011). Improving student learning in calculus through applications. International
Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 42, 591-604.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Nationally only 40% of the incoming freshmen Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) majors are successful in earning a STEM degree. The University of Central Florida (UCF) EXCEL programme is a National Science Foundation funded STEM Talent Expansion Programme whose goal is to increase the number of UCF STEM graduates. One of the key requirements for STEM majors is a strong foundation in Calculus. To improve student learning in calculus, the EXCEL programme developed two special courses at the freshman level called Applications of Calculus I (Apps I) and Applications of Calculus II (Apps II). Apps I and II are one-credit classes that are co-requisites for Calculus I and II. These classes are teams taught by science and engineering professors whose goal is to demonstrate to students where the calculus topics they are learning appear in upper level science and engineering classes as well as how faculty use calculus in their STEM research programmes. This article outlines the process used in producing the educational materials for the Apps I and II courses, and it also discusses the assessment results pertaining to this specific EXCEL activity. Pre- and post-tests conducted with experimental and control groups indicate significant improvement in student learning in Calculus II as a direct result of the application courses.
This study examines the relationships between student engagement, college GPA, and persistence for 6,000 students attending 18 baccalaureate-granting institutions. Data sources included student-level information from the National Survey of Student Engagement, academic transcripts, merit aid, and ACT/SAT score reports. Engagement had positive, statistically significant effects on grades and persistence between the first and second year of study for students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Equally important, engagement had compensatory effects for historically underserved students in that they benefited more from participating in educationally purposeful activities in terms of earning higher grades and being more likely to persist.
  • D F Berlin
  • H Lee
Berlin, D. F., & Lee, H. (2005). Integrating Science and Mathematics Education: Historical Analysis. School Science and Mathematics, 105(1), 15-24.