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This study compared the performance of first year college students with similar high school mathematics backgrounds in two introductory level college mathematics courses, a College Algebra course and a Quantitative Reasoning (QR) course, and to compare the performance of students with differing high school mathematics backgrounds within each course. High school mathematics backgrounds were measures three ways: using the binary minimum preparation standards of the college, using levels defined by those standards and high school academic data, and levels defined only by high school academic data. Performance in college courses was considered in two ways: final grades and a binary measure of course success. Tests of correlation, independence of variables, and difference of means were used for analysis. The preparation standards were found to have no significant relation to grades or success. Levels whose definition included the preparation standards were also found to have no significant relation to grades or course success. Levels of preparation defined only by high school data showed no significant relation to success, but showed a positive relation to grade. For students with below or above average levels of high school preparation, there was no significant difference in performance between the two courses, while students with average levels of high school preparation performed significantly better in the QR course than in the Algebra course. For first year students in general, there was no difference in mean grades between the two courses, but rates of success were higher in the QR course than in the Algebra course.
Advisor: Larry Dlugosh