Calculus as Science Capital for First-Year Engineering Students
Mejia Aranda, Yanantali
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Access to and success in calculus is of particular interest in engineering education because calculus is a foundation to undergraduate engineering coursework (Wade, 2011). Although prior research has examined different math placement mechanisms (Foley-Peres & Poirier, 2008; Rueda & Sokolowski, 2004) and the role of calculus as a gatekeeper-gateway, little is known about the perspectives of students in their calculus course selection processes. In this study, I utilized a mixed-methods phenomenological approach to understand the experiences of a group of first-year engineering students, focusing on how and why they selected their first calculus course. Students were matriculating in a prestigious, highly-ranked school of engineering where entering students typically have many options for calculus enrollment. Informed by a multi-phase data analysis, the results of the study suggest that students utilize different forms of science capital (Archer et al., 2014) in their decision-making process, including Advanced Placement Calculus exam scores, university math placement exam recommendation scores, and their social networks. When the scores do not align, students are more likely to access their social networks to discuss and explore their options. Based on cross-case and within-case analyses, I generate a localized explanatory model, the Calculus Course Selection Decision Model, to describe how and why these first-year engineering students select their first college calculus course. The model also illustrates how different forms of STEM-related capital may influence students’ mathematics and science identities (Carlone & Johnson, 2007; Martin, 2006) and contribute to how they view themselves as mathematics and science learners, how they believe they are perceived by others, and how they perceive their ability to do well in their calculus course options.
Subjectengineering education, first-year engineering, mathematics placement, mathematics education, calculus placement, AP Calculus