Tuesday, August 5, 2008 - 3:40 PM

COS 38-7: But can they really do math? Mathematical skills predict performance in biology course

Jennifer A. Nelson, Canisius College

Background/Question/Methods Curricula are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary with many institutions are emphasizing mathematical principles more within biology and ecology courses.  But teachers frequently assume what the students know based on prerequisites or high school preparation without verification.  We tested whether high school preparation actually affected how students would perform mathematical techniques used in a first semester biology course. 

Students with the most mathematical training (calculus) were more confident in their mathematical skills and were better able to complete the practical mathematical skills questions.  This is despite the fact that tested skills were drawn from high school algebra or pre-calculus courses.  We also looked at how practical mathematical skills predicted final performance in the course.