STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

A STEP to Grow in Science-Engineering-Mathematics Undergraduate Degrees

Project-based instruction, peer leading and peer tutoring are shown to individually contribute positively to student passing rates in calculus courses at the University of South Florida..

The STEP project at University of South Florida ( is based on the premise that success in calculus is the gateway to success in the STEM fields. This project is aimed at increasing STEM graduates through intervention programs in the Engineering and Life Science Calculus sequences. Through this project we have developed and are implementing several transportable strategies such as one-stop extended-hour tutoring (STEM Mart), project-based teaching, and peer leading. These multiple strategies have transformed the teaching of calculus at USF and are leading to increased retention and pass rates for students.

STEM Mart is a tutoring center that provides undergraduate students in the STEM disciplines an opportunity to receive free tutoring from other successful undergraduate students selected by the program. From Fall 2008 to Fall 2012, a total of 16094 student visits were recorded. The project-based learning activities are coordinated through the newly created Center for Industrial and Interdisciplinary Mathematics at USF. From Fall 2008 to Fall 2012, a total of 830 projects have been completed by students taking Engineering Calculus II or III or Life Sciences Calculus II. We developed a curriculum of inquiry-based activities, following the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) approach, for both Engineering and Life Sciences Calculus I. From Fall 2008 to Fall 2012, 3300 students have been given peer-led instruction in these courses.

We have observed increased passing rates (over 10%) in Calculus for students who visited STEM Mart five or more times during a semester. We have also observed increased pass rates (10%) and decreased withdrawal rates (between 5 – 15%) for sections that offer the project option as well as for sections that offer peer leading. On an individual level, the passing rate for students who complete a project is 25% higher than that for those who do not.

Progress is being made in institutionalizing the three main thrusts of this project. STEM Mart is now part of tutoring and learning services at USF. USF provides salary and benefits to its administrative and support staff and project personnel have been asked to provide estimates for funding needed to support STEM Mart once the grant ends. Peer leading has received permanent funding from the University for 22 undergraduate peer leaders and four graduate teaching assistants every semester. The Center for Industrial and Interdisciplinary Mathematics at USF has become a long term resource for the local industry and research communities and is a source of information to prospective project advisors. It publishes the electronic journal Undergraduate Journal of Mathematical Modeling: One + Two ( in which selected student projects are published.

Lead Author

  • Kandethody Ramachandran


Name Organization
Catherine Bénéteau University of South Florida
Scott Campbell University of South Florida
Gordon Fox University of South Florida
Arcadii Grinshpan University of South Florida
Jennifer Lewis University of South Florida
Marcus McWaters University of South Florida

Institution Information

  • Name: University of South Florida
  • State: FL

Poster Information

  • ID: CI-001
  • Disciplinary Focus: Math
  • Award Number: 0756847
  • Project Year 5+