Support for student success
Success in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines is increasingly important for 21st-century careers, and Michigan State University students who require assistance in mathematics are receiving support to help ensure their success.
In one effort, a number of colleges and programs are working with the MSU Neighborhoods initiative staff to focus on how low math performance impacts STEM education at MSU. All involved participated in the third annual MSU STEM Day Symposium last fall. By comparing existing programs and assessment mechanisms, we hope to identify opportunities for collaboration, innovation, and further progress.
The idea is to better position the university as a national leader in helping students who enter college with low math performance to persist in STEM majors and earn STEM degrees. Residence hall clusters thus far integrated into the MSU Neighborhoods system offer mathematics tutoring among their academic support services.
Another program now under way is a low mathematics placement and performance curriculum for freshmen. It provides academic support, a peer cohort, targeted courses, and an on-ramp into the mainstream Lyman Briggs College STEM curriculum. With new recurring support from the Office of the Provost, Lyman Briggs is expanding the integrated biology/chemistry class LB155 to include all eligible students, extending the program to incorporate algebra courses such as MTH 1825, underwriting further curriculum development and assessment, and ensuring that the regular Lyman Briggs STEM courses will have sufficient seats to accommodate the low mathematics placement students.
Lyman Briggs also is offering a classroom section of MTH 1825 with support from Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces, or ALEKS, a web-based assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics he or she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS courses are very complete in their topic coverage, and ALEKS avoids multiple-choice questions.
The College of Engineering has a large component of our STEM programs, and, in addition to a residential program in Wilson Hall, the college offers an Engineering and Science Summer Academy. The six-week, residential, intensive program is designed to acclimate incoming freshmen to college-level engineering education. Participants attend daily classes in math, English and writing, and chemistry and an engineering seminar to expose them to postgraduate and professional opportunities.
The Charles Drew Science Scholars Program, an academic support program the College of Natural Sciences has supported since 1976, is teaming up with the College of Engineering diversity office to offer a classroom version of MTH 1825 with a hand-selected faculty member and additional recitation, problem-solving, study, and review sessions. The Drew program also offers learning tutorials to help students bring their mathematics learning into the context of their science majors.