Relationships of Abstraction and Application Complexity in the Attainment between Mathematics and Electrical Engineering Modules in Diploma Courses of South Africa


  • Kavita Behara
  • Kayode Timothy Akindeji
  • Gulshan Sharma


abstraction; diploma courses; electrical engineering; legitimation code theory; mathematics


In South Africa, universities are under pressure to meet increasing targets for student enrolment in engineering disciplines and fields. This has resulted in many students being enrolled in engineering programs without possessing the minimum required mathematical skills and understanding to tackle the challenging engineering disciplines. Hence, the engineering disciplines have a high student attrition and failure rate. This study aimed to evaluate the complex relationship of abstraction and application between mathematics attainment and principles of electrical engineering attainment by the students enrolled in diploma courses in technical universities of South Africa. A blend of quantitative and qualitative data was used. Legitimation code theory (LCT) was used to determine the complexity of higher learning levels. The relationships between six core courses in the Electrical Engineering curriculum were investigated to analyze the knowledge building from mathematics modules to principles of electrical engineering modules. The problem-solving, analytics, and abstract mathematical skills developed in these modules impact the overall progression into principles of electrical engineering courses at different levels for diverse students. The research examines the theoretical foundation, student performance, and practical application of mathematical ideas in electrical engineering using curriculum documents, student academic records, and interviews with electrical engineering lecturers. The study found a weak correlation between the two modules and examined how resources, cultural attitudes, and pedagogy affect student achievement. The results indicate an unexpected negative and fragile correlation between the lower mathematics and engineering modules at high levels. The LCT analysis showed the disconnect between the mathematics courses and the principles of electrical engineering in both the level of abstraction used in the studies and the extent of application principles taught.


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