The COMPASS: CoOrdinated Math-Physics Assessment for Student Success program aims to improve students’ understanding of mathematical concepts using physical applications. COMPASS is a first-year calculus course that combines mathematics concepts with physical applications in an effort to improve student understanding of mathematics using their outstanding physics intuitions. The implementation of the COMPASS program is described briefly in this paper. %The COMPASS program was first launched at Clarkson University during fall semester of academic year 2015-2016. We design and experiment this novel calculus/physics instructional program to understanding whether it is possibly to benefit students in STEM disciplines.
In this paper, we compare students’ reports on instructional strategies and beliefs about learning mathematics for COMPASS, COMPASS-eligible and non-COMPASS students during academic year 2017–2018. We track students’ performance in their continuing mathematics courses for the groups from academic year 2015-2016, for which most of the students completed calc 3 and Elementary Differential Equations during academic year 2016-2017. The data we collected shows that students who went through COMPASS program reported positive instructional experiences, increase in interest during their year-long training in COMPASS and they performed well in their continuing mathematics courses, regardless of their initial weaknesses in math prior to attending college.
The study is likely to interest a broad group of engineering education researchers and/or practitioners to disseminate knowledge on engineering teaching and learning since mathematics is a common problem throughout engineering education. In addition, even though the improvement of COMPASS students in continuing math courses are not significant, their slightly better performance shows a great improvement in comparison with their low math test scores as high-risk category group students. The COMPASS program may improve instruction through the development of innovative materials and sound instructional designs.
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