Perceptions about math placement and pre-calculus/calculus math courses among college first-generation, low-income, students of color

DiGregorio, Gaye, author
Muñoz, Susana, advisor
Birmingham, Dan, committee member
Hagman, Jess Ellis, committee member
Thayer, Paul, committee member
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The purpose of this study was to explore first-generation, low-income, students' of color experiences with math placement and pre-calculus/calculus courses, focusing on their self-belief in being successful in math. As part of the Progress Through Calculus National Science Foundation research project, eight first-generation, low-income, students of color in STEM at one institution were studied with interviews and focus groups. These students completed pre-calculus/calculus courses during the 2017-2018 academic year. Summarizing how first-generation, low-income, students' of color identities impacted college experiences for these students, a strong dedication to learning and a deep value in seeing the benefit of higher education were combined with an extreme pressure to succeed. As one of the first experiences with students in college, the math placement process revealed anxiety with this high stakes exam. This exam was viewed with a fixed mindset, where most of the students did not take advantage of the minimal support offered. For the majority of students, the placement exam did not enhance their self-belief in being successful in college math, and half the students enrolled in a math course that was different than their placement results. Student experiences in math courses that positively influenced self-belief focused on the transformation as engaged learners; which included valuing practicing, devoting time, gaining mastery with mathematical concepts, working with other students, and understanding the importance of asking for help. Course components students shared that influenced their self-beliefs to be successful in math are illustrated within inclusive pedagogies in the classroom and, in turn, support structures to enhance student learning. Particular aspects of inclusive pedagogy included group active learning, diverse experiences and approaches, and a community of caring. Highlighted support structures were course feedback, learning assistants, and the math lab. A community approach to learning math was illustrated by integrating the aspects of self-belief that empowered engaged learning with inclusive pedagogies and support structures. Promoting a community approach to learning encourages self-belief in math success and may positively influence math completion of first-generation, low-income, students of color.
2018 Fall.
Includes bibliographical references.
Rights Access
college first-generation students
college math placement
college students of color
college low income students
college calculus mathematics
college pre-calculus mathematics
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