Monday, August 28, 2006

Math Placement: the Calculus in High School Remix

Today I was swamped with placement issues.

Allegedly all the incoming freshmen take a placement exam over the summer* and then these scores (together with ACT and GPA) are used to help them select their first math class. We have a statistical model (created by yours truly) that shows that if you take the class that we tell you to, then you have at least a 75% chance of passing with a C or better; if you ignore placement, your chances of success are much lower.

Now that classes have met for a few days, all sorts of students who placed into College Algebra or pre-calc are stopping by my office to tell me their sob stories and to beg me to let them into some sort of calculus course. Without fail, these students with very low ACT scores and very low placement scores will report having taken calculus in high school. My favorites are the ones who took AP calculus in high school and who got a 1 on the AP exam and use this as evidence of being prepared to take our engineering calculus course. I'm not convinced.

(And now, if you'll excuse me, I must get back to work. I have calculus papers to grade. What was I thinking when I assigned homework to be turned in every day? Oh yeah, that unless I do this that they will not do the homework and not learn anything.)

*I am not convinced that they all take it. I think that some skip the exam and then just sign up for stuff at random. I'll need to check with the advising office.