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Assessing First-year Calculus Knowledge and Skills needed for a Sophomore Statics and Dynamics Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Students' Abilities and Attitudes

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.238.1 - 22.238.17

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Paper Authors


Kristi J Shryock Texas A&M University

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Kristi J. Shryock is a Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. She received both a B.S. and M.S. in
Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M and received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Engineering at Texas A&M in May 2011. Her research work focuses on engineering education.

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arun r srinivasa Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University

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Prof Srinivasa obtained his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1986. He subsequently obtained a Ph.D at UC Berkeley and has been a faculty in the mechanical Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. He is one of the curriculum coordinators for the freshman engineering program of the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University, and was also part of the committee that developed the current statics and dynamics class for the Department of Mechanical Engineering

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Jefferey E. Froyd Texas A&M University

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Jeffrey E. Froyd is the Director of Faculty Climate and Development at Texas A&M University. He served as Project Director for the Foundation Coalition, an NSF Engineering Education Coalition in which six institutions systematically renewed, assessed, and institutionalized their undergraduate engineering curricula, and extensively shared their results with the engineering education community. He co-created the Integrated, First-Year Curriculum in Science, Engineering and Mathematics at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, which was recognized in 1997 with a Hesburgh Award Certificate of Excellence. He has authored or co-authored over 70 papers on engineering education in areas ranging from curricular change to faculty development. He is collaborating on NSF-supported projects for (i) renewal of the mechanics of materials course, (ii) improving preparation of students for Calculus I, (iii) systemic application of concept inventories. He is currently an ABET Program Evaluator and a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal on Engineering Education.

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Assessing First-year Calculus Knowledge and Skills needed for a Sophomore Statics and Dynamics CourseAnecdotally, engineering faculty members complain that students taking sophomore engineeringscience courses are not prepared with respect to mathematics. However, evidence has rarely beensystematically collected and analyzed to determine the veracity of these assertions. To begin toaddress this issue, the following steps were taken. First, engineering faculty members who taughta sophomore statics and dynamics course at a large public university were asked for problemsinvolving first-year calculus and mathematics that they thought students should be able to solvewhen they entered this course. For each problem, one or more learning outcomes wereabstracted. Given the set of learning outcomes engineering faculty members expected students tobe able to perform, a set of nine problems was generated to be given to students near thebeginning of the statics and dynamics course. The instrument has been administered to a set ofstudents who took the course summer 2010 as well as a set of students who took the course infall 2010. The paper will describe: • Some of the problems that were submitted by engineering faculty members • The set of learning outcomes that was generated • The pre-course assessment instrument for mathematical knowledge and skills that was generated, and • Results from over 350 students who took the pre-test.The intent of the paper is to clarify answers to two questions: • What do engineering faculty members expect students to know and be able to do when they begin a sophomore statics and dynamics course? • To what extent do students satisfy these expectations?After administering the instrument and analyzing the results, faculty members have a better ideaof the background of their students and can adjust course content. Further, there will be evidenceto examine the extent to which students are prepared in mathematics to begin a core engineeringscience course. Finally, the paper will also present changes that some faculty members made inthe course plans to apply what they learned about the extent of their students’ mathematicspreparation near the beginning of the course.

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