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Predicting Student Success In Calculus

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovative Instruction Strategies in Calculus

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1170.1 - 12.1170.12

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Paper Authors


Jenna Carpenter Louisiana Tech University

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Jenna P. Carpenter is Director of Chemical and Industrial Engineering and Wayne and Juanita Spinks Professor of Mathematics at Louisiana Tech University. She was co-developer of the mathematics sequence for NSF-funded integrated engineering curriculum at Tech and currently leads an NSF-funded effort to develop an integrated science curriculum for math, science and education majors. She received her B.S. in Mathematics from Louisiana Tech University. Her M.S. and Ph.D. in Mathematics are from Louisiana State University, where she was an LSU Alumni Federation Fellow.

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Ruth Ellen Hanna Louisiana Tech University

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Ruth Ellen Hanna is Director of Mathematics and Statistics and Walter E. Koss Professor of Mathematics at Louisiana Tech University. She implemented and for many years coordinated the ALEKS program at Louisiana Tech and, in addition, has mentored and conducted training workshops for both faculty and mathematics teachers in the use of ALEKS. She has coordinated mathematics placement assessment at Tech for the past 25 years and is developing and teaching math courses via the internet, which include ALEKS as a major component. She also works with K-12 schools interested in utilizing ALEKS in their curricula. She received her B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from Louisiana Tech University.

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

Predicting Student Success in Calculus I Abstract

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. 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 our state 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. In a preliminary study, we examined whether or not the Math ACT accurately reflects student preparedness for calculus. This study looks at student performance on the initial ALEKS assessment and total hours spent using ALEKS during the term to see if these might be more accurate predictors of student success in Calculus I than the Math ACT or if they, together with the Math ACT, might be more reliable than the Math ACT data alone. Statistical analysis of the data indicates that the best predictor is the combination of Math ACT score, interaction between initial ALEKS assessment score and total hours of ALEKS usage, and the quadratic effect of Math ACT. Together, however, these account for only about half of the variability seen in course grade in Calculus I, indicating that other factors have a strong effect on student success in Calculus I. The data also suggests that there is a slightly negative relationship between Math ACT score and total hours spent using ALEKS during the term. That is, students with higher Math ACT scores spend slightly less time using ALEKS. This could be caused by a lower perceived need for assistance among students with higher Math ACT scores.


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

Carpenter, J., & Hanna, R. E. (2007, June), Predicting Student Success In Calculus Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii.

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