Numeric information in graphic forms skills pre-post assessment

The second general education program learning outcome which SC 130 Physical Science addresses is "3.2 Students will be able to present and interpret numeric information in graphic forms." The twenty-eight students in physical science spring 2013 were given six questions which focused on this outcome as skills pre-assessment at the start of the term. The same six questions were included on the final examination.

Note that every student in the course has had a mathematics course at the college, with 22 of the 28 having had MS 100 College Algebra or a higher level of mathematics.

A box plot of student scores out of six possible for the pre-assessment and post-assessment shows a strong improvement in performance.

From the pre-assessment to the post-assessment the median rose from two to four out of six possible, the mean rose from 2.19 to 4.54 out of six possible. Both the difference in the medians and the difference in the means is statistically significant.

The six questions focused on reading and mathematically interpreting xy scattergraphs, plotting data pairs, calculating slopes and intercepts. Although 22 of the students had completed college level algebra or higher, on the pre-assessment eight students could not correctly plot (x,y) data pairs. The 20 students who could correctly plot pairs represented the strongest performance on any of the six items.

On the chart the left side of the bar is the number of students answering that item correctly on the pre-assessment. The right side of the bar is the number of students answering that item correctly on the post-assessment. The number of students answering an item correctly increased for all six items, although the increase in the number answering correctly was small for calculating the y-intercept.

For many majors at the college MS 100 College Algebra is the terminal mathematics course. Twenty-two students either completed MS 100 or a higher course, yet their only significantly retained skill was plotting (x, y) points on a graph. Whether SC 130 Physical Science provided sufficient reinforcement of  these concepts for retention is unknown. The hope is that the concrete systems that underlay the physical science xy scattergraphs will provide the cognitive hooks to which students can attach and connect this knowledge set.

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