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Active Learning In Mathematics: Using The Supplemental Instruction Model To Improve Student Success

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Mathematics Curriculum in Transition

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.122.1 - 10.122.5



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Paper Authors

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John Gardner

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Patricia Pyke

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Amy Moll

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Active Learning in Mathematics: Using the Supplemental Instruction Model to Improve Student Success

John F. Gardner, Mechanical Engineering Amy J. Moll, Material Science and Engineering Patricia A. Pyke, College of Engineering

Boise State University Boise ID 83725


With the support of the Hewlett Foundation’s Engineering Schools of the West Initiative, Boise State has implemented a program called Active Learning in Mathematics, based on the model of Supplemental Instruction (SI). This paper reports on the progress and lessons learned in the first 3 semesters of ALM support for pre-calculus and Calculus II, two well-known gate-keeper courses in the engineering programs. The program is currently in its 2nd semester and has already undergone major modifications due to lessons learned in the pilot stages.


Boise State University is a metropolitan university with more than 18,000 students enrolling every semester. The College of Engineering was formed in 1996 and offers B.S. M.S, and M. Eng. Degrees in Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering. A large fraction of the students at Boise State are non-traditional students defined as those older than 24 years of age. Because of this and because of the general population that Boise State serves, many of our engineering students begin their studies under-prepared in math and often require 2 or even 3 semesters of math before they are ready for Calculus. In addition, many of our students struggle through the math sequence and often take Calculus I and Calculus II two or three times before earning a passing grade. Yet many of these students succeed and graduate as capable engineers. A snapshot of the 2003 graduating class in Mechanical Engineering is a good indicator. More than 50% of the students were not ready for Calculus when they enrolled at Boise State. In addition more than one quarter needed two semesters of math preparation before taking calculus.

While the makeup of the incoming class demonstrated the challenge in meeting the needs of under-prepared students, it’s compelling to consider the makeup of successful students to see where they began in mathematics. By analyzing the transcripts of 37 recent graduates with BSME degrees from Boise State, we ascertained the first college-level math course taken by each student. Since Boise State (like nearly all universities) “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Gardner, J., & Pyke, P., & Moll, A. (2005, June), Active Learning In Mathematics: Using The Supplemental Instruction Model To Improve Student Success Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14833

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