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Predicting Student Preparedness In Calculus

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Improving the Mathematical Preparation of Students

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Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1009.1 - 11.1009.8

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Paper Authors


Jenna Carpenter Louisiana Tech University

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JENNA P. CARPENTER is Academic Director of Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering Technology; Wayne and Juanita Spinks Professor; and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Louisiana Tech University. She was co-developer of the math sequence for the integrated engineering curriculum at Tech and currently leads an effort to develop an integrated science curriculum for math, science and education majors.

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Ruth Ellen Hanna Louisiana Tech University

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RUTH ELLEN HANNA is Walter E. Koss Professor of Mathematics and Coordinator for Undergraduate Mathematics at Louisiana Tech University. She has coordinated mathematics placement assessment at Tech for over 25 years and has led the effort to implement web-based tutoring in mathematics. Currently, she is developing and teaching math courses via the internet.

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

Predicting Student Preparedness in Calculus A Preliminary Report


Five years ago Louisiana Tech University began using a web-based tutorial program, ALEKS, in an effort to provide more effective mathematics tutoring for its students. Results on performance indicate that, for students in Math 240 (our Calculus I), strong student use of ALEKS highly correlates with student retention and success. Moreover, data shows that approximately 1500 mathematics students (at the level of calculus and below) are using ALEKS each term. At present, students are placed into Calculus I based on their Math ACT score, although there are always students whose Math ACT scores and success in Calculus I do not correlate well. Students are permitted to take the ACT multiple times and use their highest score for placement. Because Louisiana implemented high-stakes standardized testing seven years ago in the public school system for 3rd through 12th grades, many students are now approaching the ACT with a substantial amount of long-term training and practice in taking standardized tests. Therefore, we wanted to investigate whether or not the Math ACT score is still a sufficiently accurate method of placement into Calculus I. This study looks at student performance on the initial ALEKS assessment to see if it might be a more accurate predictor of student success in Calculus I than the Math ACT or if it, together with the Math ACT, might be more reliable than the Math ACT data alone. In this preliminary report, we focus on whether or not the Math ACT accurately reflects student preparedness for calculus.


Five years ago the Mathematics Program at Louisiana Tech University began using a web-based tutorial program marketed by McGraw-Hill entitled ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces)1 in an effort to provide a more effective mathematics tutoring program for our students. The goals were to 1) increase student retention and success in freshman and sophomore-level mathematics courses (such as calculus, which all engineering majors take), and 2) increase the willingness of students to utilize the available tutorial services. Note that “student success” is defined as “making an “A”, “B” or “C” in the course” (since all engineering and science majors are required to earn a grade of “C” or higher in all math courses which are prerequisites for other courses).

ALEKS is a web-based system (versus software-based) that can be accessed from any computer with web access and a java-enabled web browser. The ALEKS syllabus for each course is aligned with the actual content of the syllabus for the corresponding course at our university. Students who purchase an ALEKS access code and are provided a course code by the instructor of their mathematics class can then access the ALEKS program for that course via the internet from any computer 24 hours a day for the entire term. After completing the initial log-on process, students are required to take an initial assessment in ALEKS to determine their level of concept mastery. All work in ALEKS requires that the student work the problem and enter the resulting solutions. There are no multiple-choice or true-false questions. This initial assessment measures both mastery of prerequisite material and course content for the course in which the student is enrolled. Based on the student’s performance on the initial assessment, ALEKS

Carpenter, J., & Hanna, R. E. (2006, June), Predicting Student Preparedness In Calculus Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois.

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