About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 8385-8394
Publication year: 2017
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0555

Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain


T. Cheatham, G. Rowell, C. Stephens, D. Nelson, B. Rudnik

Middle Tennessee State University (UNITED STATES)
Interest and success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is a national U.S. priority (Kuenzi, 2008; Federal STEM Education, 2013). US students are less attracted to careers in STEM fields than students in other developed (and developing) nations (US Department of Education [ED], 2011). Poor preparation for college is a national problem. Nationally, in 2013, only 26% of the students completing the ACT exam tested college ready in all areas (ACT Inc., 2014a) and only 19% of Tennessee graduates tested college ready in all areas (ACT Inc., 2014b). In Tennessee, less than 30% of high school graduates are college ready in both science and mathematics. At our institution, in fall 2014, 72% of the first-time, full-time freshmen (FTFTF) were under-prepared (not college ready) in mathematics (56%) or in science (58%). National reports indicate that between 33% and 53% of entering freshmen need some remediation (NCES, 2003), with those students requiring the most remedial work being the ones least likely to persist and graduate (Tritelli, 2003). Many students are attracted to the job opportunities and increased pay promised by a STEM career, but too often they are not prepared for the rigors of calculus and organic chemistry. While mathematics preparation is not the only stumbling block to persistence in a STEM major, it is a significant challenge for many. Under-prepared students with academic potential deserve a chance to succeed in the STEM pipeline.

This work describes an NSF-funded STEP (STEM Talent Expansion Program, DUE#0969571) project called “Mathematics as a First STEP to Success in STEM (FirstSTEP)” with a vision to develop/adapt interventions that mitigate under-preparation in mathematics for FTFTF STEM majors. Persistence in STEM (as well as college in general) is a complicated problem impacted by many factors unrelated to mathematics, including family understanding and support for college, funding for higher education, study habits, grit, commitment, self-efficacy, expectations, organizational skills, and others. First-generation students often lack role models and advisors to help them navigate the complex academic world. Low socioeconomic status (SES) students often must work to pay for tuition, living expenses, and help support their family financially. Many students have not learned that some topics require academic struggle, and therefore, when the solution is not immediate, they “give up.” These students lack grit, good study habits, and persistence skills.

FirstSTEP was designed to provide two years of academic support for entering FTFTF STEM majors with poor mathematics preparation (ACT mathematics subscores 19-23, inclusive).

The project plan to help FTFTF STEM majors with poor mathematical preparation includes:
(1) a two-week pre-college mathematics bridge program to fill some of the arithmetic and algebra gaps in their knowledge,
(2) a 1-credit pass/fail (P/F) academic year seminar to provide weekly contact and support for the participants each semester through their sophomore year,
(3) intrusive advising and mentoring,
(4) team research experience between their freshman and sophomore year to engage students with a faculty member outside of class early in their college career,
(5) mathematics curricular innovations to help all students succeed. Success of the various interventions will be described through six years of data collected from 2010 through 2016.
author = {Cheatham, T. and Rowell, G. and Stephens, C. and Nelson, D. and Rudnik, B.},
series = {9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN17 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-697-3777-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2017.0555},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2017.0555},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {3-5 July, 2017},
year = {2017},
pages = {8385-8394}}
AU - T. Cheatham AU - G. Rowell AU - C. Stephens AU - D. Nelson AU - B. Rudnik
SN - 978-84-697-3777-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0555
PY - 2017
Y1 - 3-5 July, 2017
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN17 Proceedings
SP - 8385
EP - 8394
ER -
T. Cheatham, G. Rowell, C. Stephens, D. Nelson, B. Rudnik (2017) FACILITATING SUCCESS OF STEM MAJORS WITH POOR MATHEMATICS PREPARATION, EDULEARN17 Proceedings, pp. 8385-8394.