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Building A Foundation For Pre Calculus Engineering Freshman Through An Integrated Learning Community

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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

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.279.1 - 10.279.13



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Paper Authors

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Susanne Green

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Michele Auzenne

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Chris Burnham

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Ricardo Jacquez

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

Building a Foundation for Pre-Calculus Engineering Freshmen Through an Integrated Learning Community

Ricardo B. Jacquez, Michele Auzenne, Susanne Green, Chris Burnham New Mexico State University/University of Texas at El Paso


Beginning in February 2003 the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation funded a five-year project designed to address retention of freshmen engineering students at New Mexico State University. The freshman engineering integrated learning community (ILC) is a cluster of first- semester students who are beginning their engineering studies below the Calculus I level. The students are enrolled in algebra, freshman composition, a freshman engineering seminar, a general engineering class, general chemistry, engineering ethics, and introduction to engineering design. The cluster sequence is designed to integrate the coursework to ensure that during the first year students develop a strong foundation in algebra, writing and problem solving skills, and engineering analysis and design. The instructors of the cluster courses meet regularly to share insights about the progress of the students and to coordinate activities in ways designed to improve student learning in all the courses. An assessment team has also developed a writing- based testing instrument to assess the attitudes of the students toward the cluster intervention program. This paper reviews the experience with the cluster and the impact of this effort on retention and progression of the students through the first year of the engineering curriculum.

Pre-Calculus Barrier to Success in Freshmen Engineering

For many science and engineering majors, Intermediate Algebra has been identified as a type of early gatekeeper and an internal barrier to academic progression. At New Mexico State University, departmental records show that 40% of students who self-identify as computer science or engineering majors have to take Intermediate Algebra. Furthermore, grade records for this course show that only 30% of the students who take the course pass with an A or B letter grade. Another 14% earn a C or D, and over half—54%—withdraw, fail, or must repeat the course. The remaining 2% take an “Incomplete.”1 This difficulty with pre-calculus math represents a serious barrier to student success in the engineering majors. Ultimately, only 20% of freshmen who initiate their engineering education at the Intermediate Algebra level complete a degree in engineering. This may be due, in part, to the students’ lack of early exposure to engineering and, therefore, lack of socialization within their declared engineering programs. In order to take engineering courses, students need to be at least co-registered in Calculus I. However, students who place into Intermediate Algebra need to successfully complete the course, and then take College Trigonometry and College Algebra before they can register for Calculus I and entry-level engineering courses. This sequence can take as long as four semesters to complete.

Complicating the lack of preparation for college-level mathematics demonstrated by many

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Green, S., & Auzenne, M., & Burnham, C., & Jacquez, R. (2005, June), Building A Foundation For Pre Calculus Engineering Freshman Through An Integrated Learning Community Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15060

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