The Implementation of an Online Mathematics Placement Exam and its Effects on Student Success in Precalculus and Calculus

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Conference Proceeding

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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.

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