Engineering is a discipline that uses principles of mathematics, physics and chemistry to solve real-world problems like designing mechanical devices, bridges and transportation infrastructure, electrical devices and medical devices. Engineering in college is a demanding major that requires a number of prerequisite courses and engineering classes starting in the freshman year. Engineering degrees require a substantial amount of mathematics courses and mathematical knowledge. High school students might prepare for these classes by taking upper-level math classes available in their high school.
Universities offer concentrations in engineering that relate to the different areas of engineering. Examples of concentrations include aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer and electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. Each of these areas involves specialized classes in the particular area of engineering, but all are based upon a core of mathematics that high school students may prepare for before starting the degree program. In some degree programs, students have to take calculus 1 in their first semester, making strong high school math preparation essential to starting the major coursework in a timely manner.
Pre-Algebra and Algebra
Algebra is a fundamental math subject that provides students with basic knowledge and skills to advance to higher-level mathematics. Many high school students begin their math classes with pre-algebra, which introduces them to algebraic expressions and the arithmetic of polynomial functions. Algebra 1 and 2 expand upon these concepts and help students develop skills in solving equations and systems of equations involving variables and inequalities.
Engineers use geometric principles in designing and testing projects like aircrafts or bridges. Computer-assisted design programs used to do the design require users have a strong knowledge of geometry. High school students might take a class in geometry that expands on the basic geometry they learned in elementary and middle school. Geometry classes help students understand and apply geometric and trigonometric theorems and do geometric modeling. Not only is geometry a good preparation for more advanced math courses in engineering, but many colleges and universities require it for admission to any degree program.
Pre-Calculus and Calculus
Engineering curricula generally require students take calculus 1 in either their first or second semesters in college, so having a high school background in pre-calculus is important. Pre-calculus classes cover topics like fractions, absolute values, exponents, linear equations and quadratic equations, as well as graphing and trigonometry. High school students may also take classes in calculus, including Advanced Placement Calculus AB and BC if available. Calculus is the study of rates of change of functions and AP calculus focuses on rates of change in one dimension, or single variable calculus. It covers topics such as derivatives and integration.
Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.