An analysis of factors affecting student success in Math 160 calculus for Physical Scientists I
Reinholz, Daniel Lee
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The average success rate in MATH 160 Calculus for Physical Scientists I at Colorado State University has been near 60% for at least the past three years. Weak pre-calculus skills are often cited as one of the primary reasons students do not succeed in calculus. To investigate this conjecture we included the ALEKS Preparation for Calculus instructional software as a required component of MATH 160. Despite a perceived decrease in the number of algebra-related questions asked by students, we found no improvement in success rates. We also performed an analysis of other factors in relation to success, such as ACT scores and whether or not students had prior calculus experience. As a result of our investigations we conjecture that difficulty with conceptual thinking is a more significant factor than lack of mostly mechanical pre-calculus skills contributing to non-success in MATH 160.