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Twitter Chat 6/5/2012 – “Math-Science Death March”

“Engineering education is not a mind-numbing math-science death march that casts aside thousands of capable young people who might otherwise have made effective engineers. It is a joyful, trusting process that delights in serving student aspirations, learning, and growth, unleashing the potential of each individual.” Big Beacon Manifesto Slide 26


Join us on June 5th at 8PM Eastern for our weekly #BigBeacon Twitter Chat where educators, engineers, and students alike come together to discuss topics in engineering education. This week the topic is the “math-science death march,” essentially meaning the requirements to take copious amounts of math and science to enter into and complete an engineering degree. Special Guest Host Morgan Bakies, an engineering student in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Big Beacon Student Ambassador, will lead the discussion. Participants will be challenged to identify scenarios that can motivate, inspire, and initiate change, challenging the status quo and transforming engineering education.

“In the era of the internet and the tablet computer, those who wish to be educated in order

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to change a technological world find an education system developed during the heyday of manual switchboards and Hollerith keypunches. In a world of collaboration and teamwork, they find schools with individuals learning alone. In a world of cool product and service design, sensitivity to the voice of the customer, and attention to the needs of those in the developing world, they find a math-science death march and rigid curricula, taught in impersonal lecture halls, with an emphasis on one right (largely technical) answer.” Big Beacon Manifesto Slide 8

Some thoughts from our host, Morgan:


In my mind, the math-science death march leads to two major problems within engineering education: 1) passionate students are turned off of engineering and learning or 2) smart students succeed because they’re book smart but may not actually enjoy engineering.

Engineers only have 4-5 years to learn the knowledge they’ll be using for the next 40-50 years. This means every classes needs to count and have important takeaways students will use for the rest of their career. However, often the “math-science death march” is viewed as a requirement, a set of classes that must be passed. According to students, these courses are not something students will use in the work world.

Morgan’s Questions for reflection:

Why do engineers have so many required math and science courses?
What do students get out of these classes?
What do professors want students to learn in their classes? What about industry?
What are the failures of this “math science death march”?
Is there a better way to incorporate the material for students to learn it? What is it?
How do we improve the system? Do we change it a little bit? A lot? Abolish it? Keep it?
What other questions would you like to see on this chat? Please leave your comments on this post.

Morgan’s Suggested Reading

My favorite article on Olin which talks extensively about the project courses:
Dr. Goldberg’s talk mentions the problems with the math-science death march:
UCL’s civil engineering courses use scenarios more than actual math-science classes for the first few years:

How to Twitter Chat

If you’ve never twitter chatted before, don’t worry; it’s very easy. First, get a twitter account if you don’t already have one and sign into it. At 8pm ET on Wednesday go to and type #BigBeacon into the search box on twitter. Thereafter all the tweets with the hashtag #BigBeacon will show up on your twitter page. To participate, simply express your opinion by sending a tweet and be sure to append the hashtag #BigBeacon so other members of the twitter chat see your posting. Alternatively, sign into the free service, type in the hashtag #BigBeacon, and tweetchat will automate the search and hashtag append functions for you.

Join us!

Join us on Wednesday, 15 May at 8pm ET for the #BigBeacon twitter chat on engineering education listening to and collaborating with stakeholders.

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