Study finds students feel unprepared for math, science courses

In an age where math and science are becoming increasingly more important fields, students are becoming less prepared for the world that lies ahead, according to an article published in The Puget Sound Business Journal earlier this month.

‘Only 20 percent of college students said they felt their high-school math and science courses prepared them well enough for their college courses,’ according to the Sept. 7 article.

The study, which was conducted by Harris Interactive, was researched on behalf of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and Microsoft, where 1,074 parents and 500 college students were interviewed in May, according to a Harris Interactive news release.

The survey also found that while more than 90 percent of parents believe science, technology, engineering and math education should be a top priority, only 49 percent actually said they believe STEM education is a school’s top priority. Twenty-four percent are willing to pay extra money to help their children succeed in these courses, according to the article.

Regardless of their parents’ priorities, students are becoming less prepared for collegiate math and science courses, according to the article. While many parents recognize this to be a problem, there does not appear to be an evident solution. But with America’s economy changing to utilize more STEM majors, students need to become more prepared to handle the rigor of STEM courses, according to the article.

The Harris Interactive study showed that only one-fifth of students enrolled in a math course feel prepared.

Rebecca Reed, an undecided sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, said she felt ‘slightly, not completely’ prepared for her first college math course, MAT 121: ‘Probability and Statistics for the Liberal Arts I,’ even though she took an AP class, she said.

Thomas John, an assistant professor of mathematics at SU, said he has seen students in some of his classes unable to do simple ‘common sense’ math problems.

But for the most part, John said he believes that his students have been prepared.

‘Probably three-fourths to 90 percent of students are somewhat, or for the most part, prepared for the class,’ he said. ‘They do give them a placement test.’

Using placement testing to give students the best chance to succeed is part of the solution to preparing students for collegiate math. John said he believes that for some of the common sense problems it is up to the high schools to better prepare their students.

The U.S. Department of Education expects 1.2 million job openings in the next seven years that will require a STEM degree, but there will not be enough qualified graduates to fill those positions, according to the article published in The Pudget Sound Business Journal.

Reed said she feels unprepared for her MAT 194: ‘Precalculus’ course this year.

Reed said: ‘I haven’t done this stuff since eighth grade, so it’s challenging.’


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