June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.1385.1 - 12.1385.9
Testing Our Assumptions: Mathematics Preparation and its Role in Engineering Student Success
Two studies are presented that attempt to test commonly held assumptions regarding mathematics preparation as a predictor to success and retention in engineering programs. Many engineering educators, high school teachers and guidance counselors recommend that engineering programs should only be attempted by students who excel in accelerated and advance placement high school mathematics. The underlying assumption behind this belief is that success in high school mathematics is the best predictor of success as an engineering student and, by extension, a practicing engineer. Boise State University, as a metropolitan university in a region that is not supported by a community college system, is uniquely situated to test these assumptions. We have found that more than 30% of our successful students (those who earn bachelors degrees) began their college career at the eighth or tenth grade algebra level. Even more significantly, we found that the grade earned in their first college level mathematics class was significantly correlated to whether or not they persisted in engineering while the level at which they began mathematics study at the university was not. These results, if they prove to be representative, have significant implication for policy, admissions standards and program development to improve retention in engineering schools.
Nearly every discussion about recruitment and retention of students in engineering involves, or focuses on, mathematics and student preparation in mathematics. Many of the recent studies that have been published about the looming crisis in American competitiveness cite mathematics preparation as a major, if not the only, area that must be improved1, 2. The common observation that college mathematics courses are responsible for the majority of attrition in engineering programs has led to the widely held assumption that lack of mathematics preparation is the underlying problem facing engineering education today. Surprisingly, there is little research to critically and quantitatively put that assumption to the test. An alternate hypothesis might be that students are discouraged by their experience in their college mathematics classroom for reasons that might or might not be related to performance. Over a six year period, in conjunction with a well-funded effort to develop student support programs, we have studied a number of factors to see how they correlate with student success in engineering.
Due to the nature of our institution, we provide access to students with a wide range of mathematics preparation, from those with advanced placement (AP) credit for two semesters of calculus to students who require developmental algebra at the eighth or tenth
Gardner, J., & Pyke, P., & Belcheir, M., & Schrader, C. (2007, June), Testing Our Assumptions: Mathematics Preparation And Its Role In Engineering Student Success Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2314
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