Mathematics as a FirstSTEP to Success in STEM
Difficulties in passing required mathematics courses often discourage young STEM majors, leading them to leave STEM for other fields. Based on the success of STEPMT: STEPping up Undergraduate Research at Middle Tennessee State University, the Type 1-B Mathematics as a FirstSTEP to Success in STEM project focuses on interventions addressing math deficiencies which place freshman STEM majors who are at risk of not graduating as STEM majors into an intensive academic and student support environment. FirstSTEP Is a broad-based project that targets students from all STEM disciplines who are underprepared in mathematics. First-time, full-time freshman students, who are at-risk based on mathematics ACT test scores, participate in an intensive two-year program that includes a mathematics bridge program before their freshman year followed by an individualized study plan using technology and human interventions. The cohorts of students complete pre-calculus in the fall semester and Calculus I in the spring semester along with a one-credit semester during the academic year. The one-credit course adopts and implements an effective professional seminar model in which students learn the knowledge and skills associated with successful STEM professionals. During the summer between their freshman and sophomore years, cohorts participate in a one-month, intensive, inquiry-based exploration utilizing mathematics that is connected to their major field of study. During the sophomore year, the cohorts of students enroll in a one-credit semester designed to develop skills to prepare them for undergraduate research and to mentor the next freshman cohorts. In addition, First STEP builds on current projects aimed at increasing graduation rates of all STEM majors by addressing the high DFW rates in pre-calculus and calculus. Pedagogies, such as Peer Led Team Learning, stretch courses, and individualized study plans, are used and tested during the summer bridge program and then are integrated into pre-calculus and Calculus I courses for all students, STEM majors and students in other majors. With changes in the courses, more aspiring STEM majors, who are underprepared in mathematics, experience success in their mathematics courses and consequently continue in their STEM studies.