## Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

## Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

(OP)

I wrote this after hearing David Cullimore speak at a Solid Edge conference. Youngest keynote speaker I've ever seen. He designs and races electric cars. He couldn't pass calculus so has no engineering degree. http://www.engineering.com/DesignSoftware/DesignSo...

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

Math is an integral part of learning to be an engineer for some good reasons grounded in understanding the subject matter in other courses and being able at the end of it all to apply the principles to new situations. However, it is also true that it is used as an artificial intellectual hurdle- that's really what the analytical integration is used for in my opinion. I'd be perfectly happy to throw that elitist attitude in the garbage along with the course material which is of little to no practical use for MOST practicing engineers. If I ever need to use the method of Frobenius or to use Laplace transforms again, I'll be perfectly happy to hire a mathematician- same as I would do with numerous other specialist disciplines.

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

MM's comments also reveal another fallacy, which is that you know in college what you want to do with the rest of your life, and therefore can meaningfully decide what knowledge to learn, and the bottom line reality for many, is that it's not so at all. The math. and science, background gives you the freedom to do more than just being a button pusher. Hiring a mathematician, or even a consultant, is fine when you're flush with money and time, but most projects are not that way, and hiring someone who knows nothing about your project and your requirements every time a math problem comes up is death by a thousand cuts. Moreover, the rejection of math likely condemns most people to a pigeon-hole for the rest of their lives, which may be perfectly fine for some people. But, there are lots of people for which doing no more than what you basically did upon graduation is not the life for them; they want to grow and expand their responsibilities and challenges. THAT requires the math and science background that the article blithely considers to be irrelevant.

TTFN (ta ta for now)

I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg

FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

I forgot to mention one other thing, which is that not having the theoretical background makes it pretty hard to convince co-workers and investors that you know what you're doing. If you have the chops, you can kill it a few times, and your word will be golden thereafter. Without the chops, everyone will be wondering if the next time is when you get it all wrong and crash and burn.

TTFN (ta ta for now)

I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg

FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

Calculus is not a "gate keeper".

It's a prerequisite because it is the mathematical foundation for so many of the fundamentals of physics and engineering.

If you can't do calculus then you won't be able to understand the next 3 years.

The Cullimore kid is undoubtedly smart. I bet he is fully capable of understanding calculus, but that he was crippled by bad teachers.

I college girlfriend of mine, studying computer science, was struggling with calculus because the teachers were teaching by rote.

I explained in about 10 minutes what the physical meaning of a derivative and an integral were to her and the light bulb came on in her head. "Holly crap, that's really useful! Why aren't they teaching that in the class?"

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

That said, some of the advanced math taught in engineering programs is superfluous and is there as an intellectual hurdle rather than as a useful tool. That should change, but won't, until people other than those with PhDs set the curriculum at the Bachelors level.

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

I am in metallurgy and have never used calculus for anything other than heat transfer problems since school. But when I have a problem that I know is non-linear or indeterminate, that even though I solve it using algebra (linear algebra is the best) I know what the limits are and how to estimate the values.

Personally I have never met a real good engineer that couldn't estimate well. If you can't get an order of magnitude value without calculation aids then how do find errors?

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

P.E. Metallurgy, Plymouth Tube

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

A real engineer needs to "understand" the underlying principles.

je suis charlie

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

"The difference between an engineer and a technician or designer is that an engineer understands the physics behind a systems behavior, and a technician/designer has enough experience observing that behavior that they can usually predict it. There is a big difference there, and what some software companies are doing to reduce the perceived theoretical knowledge required to actually be an engineer vs. a technician or designer is doing a dis-service to the engineering development community by giving inexperienced managers the idea they can replace experienced engineers with CAD operators. Are fewer engineers now required for lower level tasks due to the efficiency multiplier from 3D CAD and FEA? Yea but, a part of an engineers training as a design engineer is those lower level design (CAD modeling and drawing/MBD generation) tasks as well as learning advanced FEA methods. On many occasions I have come in to fix/save projects where a designer/technician has gone beyond their true understanding and used FEA incorrectly (like, most meshing needs manual intervention to get accurate answers, especially for the stress concentration areas where failure either occurs or not) or accepted answers that were obviously wrong for other reasons because sanity check hand calcs were not done. Most larger corporations have degreed engineers and not technicians/designers as design engineers, as they know the long term cost of under-qualified engineering staff. Beware the art-to-part and push button meshing promises of some CAD salespeople, it is still an accountants pipe dream and not an engineering design/development reality."Quote from "scottlee" who commented below the article.

je suis charlie

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

Analytical integration of PDEs has very little to do with understanding engineering principles. It's not completely irrelevant, but it is just a tool used to obtain a solution to a math problem- a method used to derive some of the integrated form equations we use in engineering on a daily basis. It's not necessary to understand every step of that derivation to understand the underlying principles, nor to make proper use of the integrated form solution. There are many such tools available to mathematicians for centuries that we don't bother teaching to engineers.

I too agree that they should teach calculus when they teach elementary physics. It need not be over-complicated in the way it frequently is by math teachers.

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

I think in most of the US, they do. AP Calc and AP Physics are available at the same time. Even still, you'd need to take AP Calc before AP Physics, because half of the required calculus doesn't get taught until the second half of the course, while physics gets into derivatives and integrals simultaneously. I don't recall my or my kids having issues, one way or another.

TTFN (ta ta for now)

I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg

FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

lingua francof engineering. To notknowand understand calculus would be equivalent to not knowing English and trying to work in the US or (non-Quebec) Canada. Sure, you might get by in some isolated corners, but you will be perpetually hamstrung.I completely concur in teaching calculus principles

earlyin students' studies in elementary school. While I enjoyed science and physics in primary and secondary school, I didn'tgetit until after learning calculus. And that's because I was being taught a subject without knowing the language of said subject. Unfortunately, such a goal is so unlikely to occur, because most primary school teachers have a fear and disdain for even the most elementary arithmetic (speaking from experience as a father of a daughter in elementary school).Of course, this is said by an engineer who actually writes integrals and PDEs on his whiteboard...

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

Having said that, I've yet to understand how some of these Laplace transforms are used to solve partial differential equations in mass tranfer - work in progress.

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

Fortunately for us, engineering isn't just about math, or even science, it's also about what Dilbert has, the "knack." Not every engineer has the "knack" to the level that Dilbert does, but we all have some fraction of Dilbert's knack; otherwise, we'd suck as engineers, and would be a know-it-all packing bags at Piggly Wiggly.

I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg

FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

I didn't know many engineers in school that enjoyed math for itself and I didn't learn to appreciate pure mathematics until I found the Youtube channel Numberphile.

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

Math unleashed in engineering, all things considered, lets you get it right the first time. And if you want to do something truly original, dare I say overcome the impossible, learn math and create your own bricks.

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

I think engineering defies the notion you posit in your first sentence because without understanding the fundamentals of your discipline, which I am saying mathematics is, how can you even start to climb onto said shoulders? Whenever I work on first draft P&IDs, knowing how Bernoulli's equation is derived (and the idea of changes in momentum) informs my decisions of piping placement. In my mind, I wouldn't be able to do this type without understanding the math of fluid dynamics.

As TGS4 put it, math is the lingua franc of the ideas we use in the engineering disciplines so I equate mathematical literacy with the ladder you'd use to climb onto the shoulders of others.

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg

FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

## RE: Math a rite of passage for engineers- but should it be?

"...when logic, and proportion, have fallen, sloppy dead..." Grace Slick