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Calculus Program Identified as One of the Most Successful in the U.S.
The University of Hartford's calculus program has been identified as one of the most successful in the United States based on a survey of undergraduate Calculus I courses by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).
The Department of Mathematics, A&S, received the news in a letter from the MAA in March.
The recognition is the result of a large-scale survey of undergraduate Calculus I courses by the MAA. The study commenced in fall 2010 as Phase I of the study Characteristics of Successful Programs in College Calculus (CSPCC, NSF DRL REESE #0910240), supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goals of this study as stated by the MAA are:
• To improve our understanding of the demographics of students who enroll in calculus, and
• To examine various characteristics of calculus classes that are believed to influence student success.
More than 200 colleges and universities participated in the survey, representing 660 calculus instructors, almost 900 calculus classes and over 34,000 students. In this initial phase, the MAA identified factors that improved students' intention to continue on to Calculus II, their general interest in continuing to pursue mathematics, their enjoyment of mathematics, and their confidence in their mathematical ability. They also took into account the passing rate for Calculus I as reported by the instructors. The study controlled for a number of variables including gender, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, previous mathematics courses and performance in those courses, SAT/ACT scores, year in college, intended major, and student attitudes and intentions at the time that they began the Calculus I course.
The study analyzed data and identified departments across a variety of types of colleges and universities that have particularly effective programs. This does not necessarily mean high pass rates, but rather is evidence that they are doing significantly better than their peers in preparing their students for further mathematics. Seventeen colleges and universities, including the University of Hartford, emerged as having particularly successful programs and will be participating in Phase II of the project.
In fall 2012, the MAA will conduct an in-depth case study of Calculus I at the University of Hartford. Dr. Sean Larsen of Portland State University will be heading up the visting research team. The purpose of the second phase of the study is to gather additional information to learn more about how each selected institution runs its Calculus I program. The design of the visit involves interviews with administrators, instructors, and students, in the math department and in other related units, and observations of Calculus I classes to prepare detailed case studies that the MAA will use to identify the factors that contribute to student success and to understand how these factors are leveraged within successful programs.
The University of Hartford's Department of Mathematics has a strong history of pioneering new pedagogical strategies and technology integration, with a goal of enhancing and improving student engagement, retention and success in our classes. Well ahead of the rest of the country, our department piloted the use of computer labs in the mathematics classroom in the late 1980s, the graphing calculator in the early 1990s, interactive online homework systems in the mid 1990s, and student response systems in the mid 2000s.
Today, students in most of our first-year and second-year mathematics courses experience and investigate concepts through a variety of formats including PowerPoint, computer algebra software, virtual graphing calculators, Maple Worksheets, the WeBWorK interactive online homework system, mathlets, videos, clickers, and e-textbooks. These technological tools, for which our faculty have developed curriculum materials and data bases, have enabled us to better illuminate the dynamic nature of mathematics and have encouraged students to engage more deeply with the content while promoting a richer, multi-representational understanding of key concepts. This environment is of particular benefit to students in our Secondary Mathematics Education program, which is based in the Mathematics Department. While earning a B.A. in Mathematics and certification to teach middle and high school mathematics, these future teachers have the opportunity to learn from an innovative and dedicated group of faculty who are working at the frontier of mathematics education.
Departmental achievements have resulted in small internal and large-scale external grants, presentations at national and international conferences, and refereed conference proceedings, journal publications and book chapters. The Department of Mathematics is honored to be included as a model calculus program in the MAA’s case studies dissemination effort to promote best practices throughout the country.
Department of Mathematics full-time faculty members are Diego Benardete, Robert Decker, Aslihan Demirkaya, Mako Haruta, Joel Kagan, Raymond McGivney, Jean McGivney-Burelle (Director, Secondary Math Education), Ben Pollina, Larissa Schroeder, Mark Turpin, John Williams (Chairman), and Fei Xue.