Asee peer logo

Shifting Pre-Calculus from a Gatekeeper to a Gateway Course

Download Paper |


2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 14, 2019

Start Date

April 14, 2019

End Date

April 22, 2019

Conference Session

Track: Collegiate - Technical Session 6

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Collegiate

Page Count


Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Julian Viera Jr. University of Texas, El Paso

visit author page

Dr. Viera is employed as the coordinator for Pre-calculus and Calculus for the Mathematics department at the University of Texas at El Paso. His research focus is on language use in online mathematical courses through an activity theory lens. Dr. Viera was the recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching 2011 and 2012 from the College of Science. Dr. Viera authored or co-authored several publications including “College readiness for Hispanic future teachers: the effectiveness of a cognitive learning computer system in improving mathematical skills” in 2014 The Texas forum of Teacher Education and “Bilingual students benefit from using both language” in the proceeding of the 2016 World conference of soft computing.

visit author page


Elsa Q. Villa University of Texas, El Paso

visit author page

Elsa Q. Villa, Ph.D., is a research assistant professor at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in the College of Education, and is Director of the Center for Education Research and Policy Studies (CERPS). Dr. Villa received her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction from New Mexico State University; she received a Master of Science degree in Computer Science and a Master of Arts in Education from UTEP. She has led and co-led numerous grants from corporate foundations and state and federal agencies, and has numerous publications in refereed journals and edited books. Her research interests include communities of practice, gender, transformative learning, and identity.

visit author page

author page

Christina Convertino


Erika Mein University of Texas, El Paso

visit author page

Dr. Erika Mein is an Associate Professor of Literacy/Biliteracy Education and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Educator Preparation at the University of Texas at El Paso. Her scholarship focuses on disciplinary literacies in postsecondary contexts, with a particular emphasis on engineering identities and literacies among English Learners and bilingual students. Her research has been published in journals such as Theory into Practice, Action in Teacher Education, and Journal of Hispanic Higher Education. She earned her Ph.D. in Reading/Writing/Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The national need to transform STEM education is paramount, as evidenced by the persistent gap in STEM degree attainment between whites and minorities, which continues to be a wide chasm in spite of greater numbers of minority students entering into STEM studies as compared to ten years ago. This gap may be attributed in part to the systemic problem of a growing number of minority undergraduate students who are unable to continue their STEM studies because of their inability to pass pre-calculus, the gateway to calculus, which is a requirement for all STEM majors. This paper presents preliminary findings from a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education grant to increase the number and proportion of Latinx, particularly Latinas, who successfully complete pre-calculus and persist to completion of a STEM degree. The focus of this project is a 5-hour, pre-calculus course at a public, 4-year institution, consisting of four hours of classroom lecture and two hours of workshop facilitated by learning assistants (LAs). To increase the success rate of students in pre-calculus, the project aims to create theory-informed communities of learners that promote active, collaborative learning using evidence-based practices, such as cooperative learning and the use of metacognitive strategies. Extant research suggests LAs can be instrumental in fostering student learning, especially when they have an understanding of a sociocultural theory of learning. In this project, the LAs undergo an intense professional development workshop to understand cooperative learning and the importance of social settings to promote learning. The LAs are supported throughout the semester with the assistance of a faculty member who is certified in cooperative learning methods. When communities of learners are developed, students become producers and disseminators of knowledge rather than solely consumers of knowledge.

Viera, J., & Villa, E. Q., & Convertino, C., & Mein, E. (2019, April), Shifting Pre-Calculus from a Gatekeeper to a Gateway Course Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015