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Predicting Success in Pre-Calculus and Engineering Problem Solving

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Student Success I: Interventions and Programs

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Sara Hahler Louisiana Tech University

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Sara Hahler is a graduate student at Louisiana Tech University. She received her Bachelor of Science in mathematics education in 2012 from Louisiana College and is currently enrolled in the Computational Analysis and Modeling PhD program at Louisiana Tech. During her time as an undergraduate, she served as a tutor for the mathematics department at Louisiana College. In 2015 she earned her Masters of Mathematics and Statistics from Louisiana Tech. Currently, she is performing research in the area of mathematics education exploring the connection between high school ACT mathematics scores and freshmen mathematic/engineering class grades.

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Marisa K. Orr Louisiana Tech University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Orr is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Associate Director of the Integrated STEM Education Research Center (ISERC) at Louisiana Tech University. She completed her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, as well as a Certificate of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in engineering, gender equity, diversity, and academic policy.

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The purpose of this research paper is to determine if a student’s ACT math score is a significant variable in predicting grades in first year mathematics and engineering courses as well as determine if it is the only variable that plays a significant role in an engineering student’s grades. Other variables were selected for consideration based on extant literature, with emphasis on prior knowledge, including high school rank, GPA, and ACT component scores as well as demographic variables. Using linear regression with forward selection, this work found that at Louisiana Tech University, a student’s ACT math score is significant in terms of grade in both Pre-Calculus (the first math class an “on track” engineering student will take) and Engineering Problem Solving I (the first engineering class a freshmen student will take). However, high school GPA was a better predictor in both cases. Of the variables commonly available in student records systems, we conclude that both ACT math score and high school GPA should be considered when predicting performance in Pre-Calculus and Engineering Problem Solving, as each adds considerable explanation of variance.

Hahler, S., & Orr, M. K. (2016, June), Predicting Success in Pre-Calculus and Engineering Problem Solving Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25935

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