June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.1225.1 - 14.1225.18
The Implementation of an Online Mathematics Placement Exam and its Effects on Student Success in Precalculus and Calculus
Introduction Engineering education research on the impact of freshman engineering courses reveals a close connection between graduation rate and first semester GPA.1 The same research also explains the importance of first-semester math placement, so as to provide students with the necessary background for success. For example, students at Purdue University that earned a grade of A in a pre-calculus course in the first semester had the same engineering retention rate as students who earned a B in the first semester calculus class.1 Yet, if those same students are placed based on their SAT math scores, such students would probably fail calculus if taken in their first semester.1 A recent study on parameters that affect student success indicated that the grade earned in a student’s first college level mathematics class was significantly correlated to whether or not those students persisted in engineering, while the level at which they began mathematics study at the university was not.2 French, et al. conclude in their study of indicators of engineering students’ success and persistence, that achievement of good grades at the student’s university is an indicator of persistence, and suggests that retention programs focus on academic achievement.3 These studies highlight the importance of timely and accurate student placement in mathematics in terms of success in engineering programs.
A number of different math assessment tools are widely used by universities for student placement in mathematics courses. These tools include the mathematics portions of the ACT 4 and SAT,5 the mathematics AP exams,4 COMPASS4 examinations and CLEP5exams. Many universities and mathematics departments also have internal exams used for math placement that they have developed over the years and routinely administer. Student scores on the ACT and SAT exams are also used by most universities as part of their admissions criteria, and it is common practice to record and use for both admissions and placement the highest score achieved by students on these examinations. Thus, information about what students know, or presumably knew at some point in their history, is available in the form of ACT or SAT or both to mathematics departments. These scores are frequently used for first semester mathematics placement at the precalculus and calculus levels. However, the ACT/SAT information does not provide a current measure of a student’s knowledge in mathematics. Thus, for example, if a student last took either of these examinations in the middle of their junior year of high school, and then did not take mathematics during their senior year, a significant change in current math knowledge would be expected to occur. Also, students who continued in their mathematics instruction in their senior year of high school but did not retake the SAT or ACT examination would be placed too low. At Boise State University, which is an accessible metropolitan university, it is not uncommon to encounter students that took the ACT or SAT one time only. For example, in fall 2008, among first-time first semester freshmen, 34% of engineering students at Boise State University took one of the exams (ACT or SAT) one time only, most likely during their junior year of high school.
Bullock, D., & Callahan, J., & Ban, Y., & Ahlgren, A., & Schrader, C. (2009, June), The Implementation Of An Online Mathematics Placement Exam And Its Effects On Student Success In Precalculus And Calculus Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5541
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