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Numeracy in Engineering

A better title might be: making maths work.  What is important is that at an early stage teachers and students ‘grab hold’ of applying maths in meaningful contexts. All too often students’ mathematical skills do not match the task in hand and maths in school and college often lacks a real world context.

Maths alongside drawing is the main language of science and technology.  Maths in engineering is all about measuring and calculating.  This helps us make things work, make things fit together, reduce waste, improve performance, predict tool and material behaviour, control events and solve problems.

All the practical skills we have in engineering will be under utilised without the gift of maths. So, a level 2 qualification is a good starting point and will help in developing engineering careers.

Maths has a number of key building blocks we need to work at:

  • Algebra helps us find unknown quantities. We do this using well known formula and transposition.
  • Sometimes it is easier to find values and trends using a graphical solution or method. We can see linear and non-linear relationships.
  • Using decimal numbers, fractions and percentages helps give us precision and increasing degrees of accuracy in calculations.
  • Understanding ratios is crucial from drawing scale to gear ratios.
  • Engineering notation; being able to express large and small units of value easily.
  • Mensuration; about measuring and calculating areas and volumes. Thankfully, often quite complex shapes are really several simpler ones.
  • Trigonometry is about working with triangles, using Pythagoras’ theorem and calculating angles and lengths of sides.

Mathematics/Numeracy underpins all our engineering activity and helps us apply scientific principles and concepts of mechanical and electrical engineering.

Perhaps most important is; practice using maths at every opportunity.  The values used and outcomes calculated then give you greater experience to be a more intuitive and creative engineer or designer.