STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

Intermediate Outcomes for STEM Students Who Participated in Math Tutoring, a Toy-Based Freshman Engineering Design Course, or a Summer Bridge Program

A modest investment of money can yield increases in the retention of STEM majors.


The Penn State University Toys and Mathematical Options for Retention in Engineering (Toys’n MORE) project has completed seven semesters of data collection. This poster presents preliminary data analysis for the first six semesters. This project is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under STEP grant #0756992. The goal of Toys’n MORE is to increase the retention of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students enrolled at 14 geographically-dispersed regional campuses in the Penn State system. These campuses, along with the University Park campus, offer associate and bachelor STEM degree majors. The study is comprised of three intervention strategies and an assessment strategy. The strategies include:

 (a) enhanced tutoring programs for foundational math courses in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; the central goal of the math tutoring strategy is to maximize success in math courses so students (i) do not repeat math courses and (ii) stay on track for the completion of a STEM major.
 (b) a freshman toy-based design course called Toy FUN-damentals that involves the dissection and re-design of toys through implementation of an active, collaborative, project-based approach in freshmen engineering design courses;  the goal of Toy FUN-damentals is to enhance retention by engaging students in a fun, non-threatening, team-based environment. 
 (c) math-intensive summer bridge programs at three regional campuses to assist incoming underrepresented engineering students as they make the transition from high school to college; the advantage for students attending a summer bridge at their local campus rather than at the University Park campus is that the students at a local campus can more readily form cohort groups and learning communities that will carry over into the fall and future semesters.
 (d) and the assessment and evaluation of the intervention strategies.

We present data for the first three years, i.e. six semesters, of data collection (Fall 2009 to Spring 2012). This paper focuses on intermediate outcomes for each of the three interventions. First, this paper presents data comparing math course grades and cumulative grade point averages for students enrolled in the enhanced math tutoring programs versus students not enrolled in the tutoring programs. Second, this paper examines retention in engineering for students enrolled in a toy-based freshman engineering design courses compared to students enrolled in freshman engineering design sections based on the standard curriculum. Third, this paper examines the success of new summer bridge programs by examining the likelihood of fulfilling the entrance-to-major criteria (official enrollment) for STEM majors.

Lead Author

  • Catherine L. Cohan


Name Organization
Alexander C. Yin Penn State University
Amy Freeman Penn State University
Javier Gomez-Calderon Penn State University
Janice Margle Penn State University
Jill Lane Clayton State University
Dhushy Sathianathan California State University, Long Beach

Institution Information

  • Name: Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Main Campus
  • State: PA

Poster Information

  • ID: CI-007
  • Disciplinary Focus: Engineering
  • Award Number: 0756992
  • Project Year 5+