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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Revamping math courses of placement exam defects commendable

    In the gap between graduating from high school and entering college, incoming freshmen encounter a major buzz kill: placement tests.

    Many students, caught up in the excitement of setting foot on their future campus, do not put much thought into the placement test. Most probably don’t study. And so, particularly in mathematics, students can often be placed into classes that don’t reflect their skill level.

    While placement tests may not be the best option, right now they are the most mainstream. With more than 30,000 UA students, most of whom came from different schools and different districts, it’s difficult to assess each student’s level.

    For some reason, even though language departments also rely on placement tests, they have a lower grade replacement opportunity rate. This could be because the structure of the test. The math department recommends that students study for the placement test. The test comes with study guides and keys to help students study.

    Language placement exams focus more on assessing the abilities of students based largely on questions about grammar and translation.

    Although language may be an easier subject to write a placement test for, there clearly is a problem with the math department’s exam.

    For example, the GRO rate for Calculus 124 is fairly high. So high, in fact, that the math department is changing how the class is structured.

    Next fall, the math department will offer Math 122A and 122B in order to combat the high failure rate.

    “Every desk in this room was filled at the beginning of the semester,” said Faith Bridges, a math department lecturer whose class is half-empty. “Now look at it. There are only two people absent.”

    The change in the structure of Calculus 124, typically a freshman math course, could be a great way to combat the amount of students who wind up in Calculus 124 unprepared.

    With the new system, students would spend about two weeks in Calculus 122A and then they would take their first test. If students scored higher than the predetermined cut-off they would continue on to Math 122B, which would cover the same content as Calculus 124 currently does. If students scored lower than the predetermined score, they would be dropped down to Math 120R, which is Calculus Preparation.

    With this new system, there hardly needs to be math placement tests at all. If students feel that they are prepared for calculus, they would enroll in 122A and would see if they actually could handle the rigorous workload in a class notorious for being a weeding-out course.

    The math department is finally taking initiative to fix a system that has been chewing up and spitting out student grade point averages. Instead of taking the easy way out and changing the course credits from five to three, they took initiative to benefit the students, making sure that every student in calculus is capable of managing the course load.

    For once, the math department should be commended for its attempt to aid students. Calculus may have a high GRO rate and it may ruin many a student’s GPA. But finally, a department in this school is looking out for its students and reforming its policies to benefit students.

    — Dan Desrochers is a chemistry freshman. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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