Abstract:
This study was designed to identify those specific mathematics
computational and application skills, and combinations of mathematics
skills, which have a positive relationship to success in introductory
chemistry for community college students.
Additional areas of interest investigated, but secondary to the
main study, were the relationships between mathematical growth
shown by students during first quarter chemistry and chemistry
success, and comparisons of mathematics ability and chemistry
success between those students who had, and had not, previously
studied chemistry.
Students enrolled in participating introductory chemistry classes
during fall quarter 1977 at four Oregon community colleges were
included in this study, The student population consisted of 185
students who had no previous study of chemistry and 206 students who
previously had obtained some formal instruction in chemistry. Data
from these two groups of students were analyzed separately.
A mathematics survey, consisting of a computational problem
and an application problem for each of 26 selected mathematics skills
used during first quarter chemistry, was prepared. This 52-item
mathematics survey was given during the first week of classes as a
pretest, and again during the last week of fall quarter as a posttest.
As a measure of chemistry success, the students were given a 56-
item chemistry final examination covering subjects taught in all of the
participating classes. The data thus obtained were subjected to
statistical analysis at the Oregon State University Computer Center.
A summary of the findings is as follows:
Students obtain an approximately equivalent knowledge of
chemistry by taking introductory chemistry at any of the Oregon
community colleges.
There is a relationship between total incoming mathematics
skills and chemistry success. Pearson correlation coefficients for
the mathematics pretest scores vs. the chemistry final examination
scores were 0.588 for the group of students with no previous
chemistry and 0.604 for the group with previous chemistry.
The majority of the specific skills on the mathematics survey
had a significant relationship to chemistry success. Items which
were significantly related to chemistry success for students without previous chemistry did not match exactly those items significant for
the students with previous chemistry.
Entering community college introductory chemistry students do
not possess all of the mathematics skills needed for the course. For
example, less than 50% of the total students taking the mathematics
pretest could solve variable equations or indirect variation problems,
or multiply or divide using negative exponents or scientific
notation.
On the mathematics pretest, and again on the posttest, students
in the non-chemistry group showed an equivalent ability to solve
computational and application problems. Similar results were noted
for the students with previous chemistry.
Mathematics pretest application total scores correlated only
slightly higher than mathematics pretest computational total scores to
chemistry success, with correlation coefficients of 0.581 and 0.550
for the non-chemistry group, and coefficients of O.607 and 0.549 for
the group with previous chemistry.
Significant mathematical growth took place during the first
quarter for both groups of students enrolled in the introductory
chemistry course.
The mathematical growth of students scoring below the mean on
the mathematics pretest was compared to chemistry success.
Students who showed the most mathematics improvement tended to
have higher chemistry final examination scores. There were also a
number of specific mathematics items on which improvement was
related to chemistry success.
Students who have previously studied chemistry have better
mathematics skills and do better in first quarter introductory community
college chemistry than students who have had no previous
study of chemistry.
Letter grades assigned by instructors are closely related to
the chemistry final examination scores, correlating at 0.708 for the
non-chemistry group and 0.693 for the group with previous chemistry.