Engineering Expertise

London Knowledge Lab

Institute of Education, University of London

(grant number R000223420), February - December 2001

The MCEE project examined how mathematical ideas and techniques are used in the practice of engineering, based on case studies of professional engineers working on design projects in several civil and structural engineering consulting firms. We were especially concerned to look beyond those elements of work conventionally described as mathematical (such as techniques learnt in school or university) to try to observe situations in which a more general, and harder to specify, "mathematical literacy" is involved.

The methodology and theoretical basis of MCEE were derived from a
previous ESRC-funded project carried out several years ago at the
Institute of Education ("TMO -
Towards a Mathematical Orientation"), which examined the
mathematical practices involved in nursing, commercial aeroplane
piloting, and investment banking. This project found that the various
professional groups employed a variety of mathematical strategies
which were finely tuned to their practice, yet simultaneously retained
the notion of invariance that typifies abstract knowledge. We have
been working to explain this phenomenon in terms of a theory of
"situated
abstraction" (see R. Noss & C. Hoyles, *Windows on Mathematical
Meanings*, Kluwer Academic, 1996), and MCEE developed on this
by carrying out research in a domain of practice where we could
see some sophisticated kinds of mathematics (geometry especially)
that entail complex structures of abstractions in their practical
application.

MCEE did not have a brief to consider in any detail the relations between engineering practice and engineering education. This, however, was the subject of a later project, REMIT - "Reassessing the Roles of Mathematics and IT in the University Education of Engineers".

Feb 01 |
Detailed project proposal (as submitted to the ESRC in April 2000): MCEE-Project-proposal.pdf |

Jul 01 |
Poster presented at the 25th Psychology of Mathematics Education Conference: MCEE-poster-for-PME25.pdf |

Sep 01 |
Paper delivered at the conference Engineering
Education 2002, Institution of Electrical Engineers, London,
January 2002: Kent-Noss-EE2002-preprint.pdf |

Mar 02 |
MCEE End of Award Report (as delivered to the funding body, ESRC) |

Please contact Phillip Kent, p.kent@ioe.ac.uk, and Richard Noss, r.noss@ioe.ac.uk.

London Knowledge Lab - Institute of Education