Increasing engineering students’ awareness to environment through innovative teaching of mathematical modelling
This article presents the results of two studies on using an innovative pedagogical strategy in teaching mathematical modelling and applications to engineering students. Both studies are dealing with introducing non-traditional contexts for engineering students in teaching/learning of mathematical modelling and applications: environment and ecology. The aims of using these contexts were: to introduce students to some of the techniques, methodologies and principles of mathematical modelling for ecological and environmental systems; to involve the students in solving real-life problems adjusted to their region emphasizing the aspects of both survival (short term) and sustainability (long term); to encourage students to pay attention to environmental issues. On one hand, the contexts are not directly related to engineering. On the other hand, the chances are that many graduates of engineering will deal with mathematical modelling of environmental systems in one way or another in their future work because nearly every engineering activity has an impact on the environment. The first study is a parallel study conducted in New Zealand and Germany simultaneously with first-year students studying engineering mathematics. The second study is a case study of the experimental course Mathematical Modelling of Survival and Sustainability taught to a mixture of year 2–5 engineering students in Germany by a visiting lecturer from New Zealand. The models used with the students from both studies had several special features. Analysis of students’ responses to questionnaires, their comments and attitudes towards the innovative approach in teaching are presented in the article.