Research on mathematical competencies in engineering education: Where are we now?

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In tertiary mathematics education for engineers (hereafter called service mathematics education, SME), there is a long-lasting controversy on what and how to teach. The goal of SME is to provide a base for engineering-specific courses and to develop mathematical competencies needed for academic success and professional practice. A leading question in engineering education is how to take mathematical competencies into account when designing content. Mathematical competencies are employed to understand, judge, do, and use mathematics in a variety of mathematical contexts and situations in which mathematics could play a role [1]. Although mathematical competencies have been introduced for about two decades, Alpers [2] noted that research in engineering higher education had focused chiefly on the modelling competency and less on other competencies. By means of a scoping review, the current study aims to examine how mathematical competencies are investigated in higher education research. The main research question is “To what extent and in what ways have mathematical competencies been examined in higher engineering education research?” Papers were retrieved and qualitatively reviewed using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta- Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. A systematic search yielded 166 records, of which, 65 unique records were relevant to engineering education and screened for eligibility. A synthesis of 23 studies reviewed showed that problem-solving and modelling were the most investigated mathematical competencies and were often investigated together or with other mathematical competencies. The inconsistencies in the terminologies used suggest a need for clearer conceptualizations to advance research and inform practice on mathematical competencies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 50th Annual Conference Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC)
EditorsHannu-Matti Järvinen, Santiago Silvestre, Ariadna Llorens, Balàzs Nagy
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Event50th Annual Conference of The European Society for Engineering Education - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 19 Sept 202222 Sept 2022
Conference number: 50


Conference50th Annual Conference of The European Society for Engineering Education
Abbreviated titleSEFI 2022


  • service mathematics
  • engineering education
  • mathematical competencies
  • scoping review
  • curriculum development


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