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A project funded by the Association for American Universities plans to transform math education at U of T Engineering by incorporating engineering applications across first-year courses and redesigning course instructor and Teaching Assistant (TA) training. (Credit: Laura Pedersen)

U of T Engineering and the Faculty of Arts & Science are teaming up to revitalize the University’s first-year mathematics curriculum. The collaborative project recently received a STEM Network Mini-grant of $20,000 from the Association of American Universities (AAU).

The AAU awards mini-grants to advance existing efforts in improving undergraduate education. Other recipients include Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology.

At U of T, first-year engineering students must complete math courses that are taught collaboratively with the Department of Mathematics. This interdivisional teaching partnership leverages world-class expertise in the field, but “there’s a terrific opportunity here to strengthen connections between the mathematics, and the concepts and skills that are foundational to engineering,” says Professor Micah Stickel, Vice-Dean of First Year.

The project brings together the academic leaders in U of T Engineering, including Stickel and Professor Chirag Variawa (ISTEP), Director of the First Year Curriculum, with the Department of Mathematics and the Associate Dean of Teaching & Learning in Arts & Science.

The group aims to transform math education by focusing on two areas: incorporate engineering applications across first-year math courses, and enhancing course instructor and Teaching Assistant (TA) training for the delivery of first-year math courses, including training in active-learning techniques.

The AAU grant will support the team’s efforts in creating a new teaching post-doctoral fellow position and lead TA positions. They will work with the project team leaders to examine best practices in engineering mathematics education, including identifying approaches to incorporating engineering applications within math courses.

“This AAU grant empowers us to rethink how we’re delivering the most immersive learning experience for our engineering students, starting right from first year,” says Stickel.

The Mini-grant supports the latest project among several U of T Engineering initiatives that aim to reimagine and modernize engineering education. Last year, the Faculty established the Institute for Studies in Transdisciplinary Engineering Education and Practice (ISTEP) to prepare students for an increasingly collaborative modern workplace, while the opening of the new Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship introduces a new era in engineering education through flexible, technology-enhanced active learning spaces and fabrication facilities. U of T Engineering has also introduced new programming to prepare students to excel in the rapidly growing area of artificial intelligence, including a new AI minor, certificate and engineering science major in machine intelligence.

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