An integrated tom module for applied mathematics and applied physics: fields and electromagnetism

In TOM, the Twente Educational Model, UT’s undergraduate programmes are both organizationally and didactically transformed. In 2013-2014, two sciences undergraduate programmes delivered a joint module in the fourth quartile of year one: Applied Mathematics (AM) and Applied Physics (AP). Students from both programmes took the same classes and were mixed in the project of module 4.  

The 15 EC module has four integrated subjects: (1) vector calculus, (2) Electricity and Magnetism, (3) science philosophy and history, and (4) an experimental project. The project runs in parallel with vector calculus and E&M. Although the topics in vector calculus and E&M had a close relation, the combination of these two subjects was thought to be very challenging for students. Unlike earlier modules, the math was more integrated in module 4. The science history topic dealt with the very special combination of Maxwell’s work on integrating different existing concepts into a general field theory in electricity and magnetism. Using this approach, students would learn to appreciate that science doesn’t come easy: scientists have struggled for a century with these topics.

In the experimental project the teachers provided a list of 35 historical experiments. This list includes such experiments as the Leyden Flask, the capacitor, and the coil. Students worked in mixed teams of six (4AP-2AM students), and had a team budget of circa EUR 100 for materials. How to perform an experiment was a goal in itself. Mathematics students tended to see experimentation as irrelevant for their studies.

Because of the integration of math, physics and science history, the teacher team had to develop and deliver a cross-disciplinary module. Bringing together students from two exact sciences disciplines was not trivial. Math students have a different problem solving approach than physics students – even after only three quartiles in the first undergraduate year. 

The key benefit was the interaction and integration of the subjects: math and physics on the one hand, and science history to support this.

Prior to TOM, students learned theory at a distance from application. Retention was not very good. The subject-integrated approach and the experimental project stimulate learning. 

Students from AM and AP studied Electricity & Magnetism separately. In this mixed module, they learn math-physics integration together. 

The key benefit was the interaction and integration of the subjects: math and physics on the one hand, and science history to support this, on the other hand. Students from AM and AP studying and learning Electricity & Magnetism together.

  • Coordinating teacher (module coordinator) is competent in both math and physics
  • Very important was the choice the teacher team made to use didactic approaches from which they knew from experience that they would work: lectures, tutorials, practicals, assignments
  • Subject integration and experimental project stimulated learning of a very challenging combination of subjects
  • Math-Physics integration of students
  • Applied Physics students were very pleased with this module
  • Pass rate was good.
  • Teacher team development across disciplines
  •  Applied Mathematics students may oppose the experimental character of the project