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Math Assessment: Can it Help Us in Our Teaching?

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 12: Teaching and Advising Students in that Critical First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1134.1 - 26.1134.13



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Paper Authors


Shelley Lorimer P.Eng. MacEwan University

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Shelley Lorimer is the Chair of the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSEN) Transfer Program at MacEwan University. She is an instructor in the introductory engineering courses as well. The BSEN program at MacEwan has grown from forty students since in started almost fifteen years ago, to the current 216 students. The majority of the students in the program transfer to second year engineering at the University of Alberta.

Shelley is a graduate of the University of Alberta in engineering and is a registered professional engineer with APEGA (Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta). Prior to her career at MacEwan, Shelley worked in industry as a research engineer and a consulting engineer for several years. Her current research interests include engineering education, enhanced heavy oil recovery and basic research in diffusion/dispersion mechanisms in porous media.

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Jeffrey A Davis P.Eng. Grant MacEwan University

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Dr Davis obtained his PhD at ETH Zurich specializing in multiphase flows
and thermal hydraulics in nuclear reactors. With a passion for teaching,
Dr. Davis' research focuses on pedagogical topics such as student engagement, active learning, and cognitive development. Projects he is currently working on include “Development of a risk assessment model for the retention of students”, “Development of Student Assessment Software”, and “Improving Student Engagement through Active Learning”.

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Math Assessment: Can it help us in our teaching?AbstractIn recent years there has been an emphasis on reducing attrition rates in first-year engineeringprograms through understanding the learning needs of the students and by trying to identifyunderlying deficiencies in their skill sets when they enter university. Moreover, research inengineering education has also indicated that pre-university assessment can be used to informbest practices in teaching first-year engineering courses. This research was initiated to addressthis need through a detailed examination of student responses to a twenty question pre-calculustest (Math Advisory assessment) that was administered in a first-year engineering program.In particular, this investigation focusses on a subset of results obtained from a fourteen yearlongitudinal study of first-year engineering students, where data was collected from a MathAdvisory assessment exam with the long term goal of using these results to identify students’math competencies/deficiencies which would, in turn, drive program directives. This subsetconsisted of math assessment results for one group of ~200 students, obtained in a pre and postfashion. The student responses, both pre and post, were examined in detail, and then compared totheir academic achievement, both prior to and at the end of their first-year engineeringexperience. Previous research using all of the data in the longitudinal study had indicated that theoverall average scores and the individual question scores from this exam were extremelyconsistent from year to year. The expectation, then, was that these results could be used to makereliable predictions regarding the math deficiencies of students entering first-year engineering, sothat interventions could be put in place to address these deficiencies.The results were analyzed using basic statistical methods. The gain in the average assessmentscore between the pre and post results was encouraging, since the average on the assessmentexam went from 50% prior to entering first-year engineering to 74% after completion of the first-year program; a statistically significant increase. The correct response rate was compared on anindividual question basis for the pre and post scenarios to determine the areas where deficienciescontinued to exist after the three first-year math courses. According to a classification schemethat was developed in an earlier study, deficiencies were most apparent in problem solvingquestions and trigonometry. Basic algebra skills improved substantially. From these results it isclear that the first-year curriculum should increase the focus on problem solving strategies, notonly in the math courses, but in the other first-year courses as well.The data was further explored to determine if there were strong correlations between the mathassessment results and academic indicators such as high school marks and grade point averages.There was a strong correlation between first term GPA and final cumulative GPA. There wereweak correlations between the Math Advisory exams and….Although this study used only a small subset of a larger longitudinal study, it has shown promisein the results that were obtained, providing a sound basis for continuing the study. This researchhas also provided the impetus to further and guidance in the direction to mine the data forinformation that will determine teaching practices to address specific math concerns.

Lorimer, S., & Davis, J. A. (2015, June), Math Assessment: Can it Help Us in Our Teaching? Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24471

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