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Prefreshman Students Gearing Up With Early Bird

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Bridging the Gap and Freshman Programs

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Page Numbers

14.967.1 - 14.967.8

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Paper Authors

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Sabina Jeschke University of Stuttgart


Akiko Kato Technische Universitaet Berlin

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Akiko Kato studied physics, computer science and human medicine, and received both her Diploma in 1999 and her Ph.D. in 2004 in physics from the Berlin Institute of Technology.
She wrote her dissertation in the field of statistical physics and quantum-thermodynamics. She has been doing research and teaching mathematics and physics at the same university since 1997, from 1997-1999 as a student assistant, from 1999-2004 as a research assistant and since 2006 as a postdoctoral researcher and assistant lecturer.
Her recent field of research is focused on new didactic and educational methods in teaching mathematics and engineering sciences.

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Olivier Pfeiffer Technische Universitaet Berlin


Erhard Zorn Technische Universitaet Berlin

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Erhard Zorn studies Physics and Mathematics at the Berlin Institute of Technology. After receiving his Dipom in Physics from the Berlin Institute of Technology he worked as a teaching assistant at the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. He spent the academic year 2000/01 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. Starting in 2001 he worked as a project manager and lecturerer at the Berlin Institute of Technology where he ist concerned with the mathematical education of engineers and physicists.

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Technische Universität Berlin
Medienzentrum für Lehre und Forschung
Sekretariat MA 7-2
Erhard Zorn

Phone: +49/(0)30/314 23646
Fax: +49/(0)30/314 24413

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

Pre-Freshmen Students Gearing up with Early Bird


We are offering a freshmen course called “Early Bird” where students have the opportunity to take the mathematics courses of the first semester (Calculus I for Engineers and Linear Algebra for Engineers) before they are enrolled at our university. Participants accomplishing sufficiently many homework assignments are qualified to take the final written examinations even if they are (still) not enrolled. The grades of these examinations may be accepted if the students will be enrolled afterwards. In this 9 weeks course the regular calculus I and linear algebra lectures are taught in the same lecture/tutorials together. Though the workload in this course is very high for students, 99% are recommending this course to other prospective engineering students.

The intention of this course is to provide the first semester students with the mathematics that will be usually used in non-math classes before it can be taught in the math classes. As mathematical knowledge and skills are some of the most important tools for engineers the Early Bird course has proved as very effective to prepare engineering students for their engineering courses. Before winter term 2008/09 we successfully offered this course for the third time. This year we had no additional financial resources to offer very small classes. On the other hand, in the week between this course and the final examinations a summer camp has been organized where recitation lessons were voluntarily offered by teaching assistants.

In this article, we are comparing the final examination results of Early Bird students and regular students. We are presenting the results of the Early Bird courses of the last three years. The results will be compared with the data of regular students who took the same written exams.

1. Key Features of Early Bird

At the Berlin Institute of Technology we offer an intensive course in mathematics called “Early Bird” during summer holidays. Within this course the content of the regular courses “Calculus I for Engineers” and “Linear Algebra for Engineers” are taught together during nine weeks. Our target group is the students of engineering departments who have to attend these two courses in their first (or first and second) semester at university. They are allowed to attend Early Bird in advance in summer directly before their enrollment in autumn. If they successfully attend the course and pass the final exam, the earned credits can be applied to their engineering studies. We offered this course in the last three summers in 2006-2008 teaching about 300-400 students per course.

2. Motivation

In the freshman courses in engineering or natural sciences we observe all too often that engineering students do not have sufficient mathematical skills to understand the subject of the classes. However, sound standing knowledge in mathematics is a basic tool for every engineer. There are at least two possible explanations for this phenomenon. It is possible that the students have poor knowledge of high school mathematics. Surely it is not the task of a university to

Jeschke, S., & Kato, A., & Pfeiffer, O., & Zorn, E. (2009, June), Prefreshman Students Gearing Up With Early Bird Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas.

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