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Identifying Bottlenecks in Undergraduate Engineering Mathematics: Calculus I through Differential Equations

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 4

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Paper Authors


Campbell Rightmyer Bego University of Louisville Orcid 16x16

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Campbell Rightmyer Bego is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Cognitive science at the University of Louisville. She is researching STEM learning, focusing on math learning and performance. She is particularly interested in interventions and teaching methods that alleviate working memory constraints. Ms. Bego is also working with the Speed School of Engineering as a graduate research assistant, helping to implement educational interventions and organize and facilitate ongoing research on retention. Ms. Bego is a registered professional mechanical engineer in New York State.

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Il Young Barrow University of Louisville

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IL Young Barrow is the QEP specialist for assessment at the University of Louisville. He specializes in knowledge around national assessment instruments (e.g. NSSE, CIRP, CAAP), assessment of student learning outcomes, retention studies, and various data analyses related to student success. IL also has wide-ranging experiences in undergraduate teaching, academic advising, and graduate admissions and student services.

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Patricia A. Ralston University of Louisville

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Dr. Patricia A. S. Ralston is Professor and Chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at the University of Louisville. She received her B.S., MEng, and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville. Dr. Ralston teaches undergraduate engineering mathematics and is currently involved in educational research on the effective use of technology in engineering education, the incorporation of critical thinking in undergraduate engineering education, and retention of engineering students. She leads a research group whose goal is to foster active interdisciplinary research which investigates learning and motivation and whose findings will inform the development of evidence-based interventions to promote retention and student success in engineering. Her fields of technical expertise include process modeling, simulation, and process control.

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A significant amount of research has investigated calculus as a barrier to student success and persistence in engineering school. Very little research, however, has investigated the mathematics courses that follow calculus I. These courses are built upon concepts and skills that are learned in the first semester and introduce more advanced material, building up a strong basis for math-dependent, domain-specific engineering courses. This paper investigates the longitudinal progress of two cohorts of students through the mathematics sequence at the University of Louisville’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering, identifying both semesters and courses that have high levels of student repetition and attrition. Two student populations within the cohorts are considered: those who take calculus in their first semester, and those who require a remedial calculus intervention semester before taking calculus. This study adds to the literature by focusing on bottlenecks in mathematics sequences beyond calculus, providing insight into engineering school retention rates beyond the first-year.

Bego, C. R., & Barrow, I. Y., & Ralston, P. A. (2017, June), Identifying Bottlenecks in Undergraduate Engineering Mathematics: Calculus I through Differential Equations Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28455

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