Full Paper: Strengthening Math Skills of Incoming Engineering Freshmen through a Bridge Program
Fifty female first-generation incoming engineering students attended a summer bridge program at Texas A&M University in 2018 with a significant focus on improving math skills. As part of the program, all students took a no-credit supplemental math course that was designed to strengthen math skills and ease the transition to university-level math and engineering courses from high school. The designers and instructors of this course took an approach that worked to draw connections between math concepts. Instead of simply reviewing concepts or putting the students through a “drill-and-kill” bootcamp, participants worked together to forge understandings of fundamental mathematical concepts. An emphasis was placed on understanding mathematics as a system of ideas, rather than a set of rules that all had their own narrow application. In addition, students were asked to partake in several metacognitive exercises to examine how they learn and think about math and question if their assumptions about mathematics and the practice of mathematics were valid. Participants met with instructors for 2 hours each day, 5 days per week, and instruction was supplemented with small-group practice sessions (4-5 students) that were led by current engineering students at Texas A&M. As a result of the four-week course, many students saw significant gains in their math placement exam score, which is used to determine first-semester math course placement. This paper will discuss these outcomes and will also examine the performance of participants during their first semester in the College of Engineering.
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