The relationship of certain mathematics skills to success of students in introductory community college chemistry Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/7d278w73h

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  • 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.
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