Numeric information in graphic forms skills pre assessment

The College of Micronesia-FSM has a general education program learning outcome, "Present and interpret numeric information in graphic forms." Basic linear algebraic interpretation is a pre-collegiate algebra skill. This summer eighteen students in MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry were administered a ten question pre-assessment of their ability to interpret basic linear function values from graphs, and to graph data from a table. All eighteen students have taken and passed MS 100 College Algebra, although some students may have taken the course a number of semesters ago.

In general student performance was generally abysmal. The average was 2.76 questions were answered correctly. The question most commonly answered correctly was the plotting of paired xy data presented in tabular format. The median was two questions answered correctly, with no student answering all ten questions correctly. A box plot of the scores out of ten possible shows that 75% of the MS 100 College Algebra completers could answer no more than three questions correct.


Broken down as an item analysis, the eighteen students are able to plot data andoccasionally determine a y-intercept (and the y-intercept was zero, the relationships were direct relationships).


Fourteen students in SC 130 Physical Science were also administered the same pre-assessment. does not have a mathematics pre-requisite. At this point this is intentional. Previous runs of the pre-assessment have indicated what was found above - prior mathematics courses do not yield prior knowledge of the mathematics. Even of basic foundational skills.

Performance was, if anything, weaker than that seen in the MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry course. No student answered more than six questions correctly, half of the students answered either no questions correctly or answered a single question correctly.


The average of 2.21 was only slightly below the average for the MS 101 Algebra and Trigometry students. These two samples, the students in MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry and the students in SC 130 Physical Science are not comparable. The MS 101 students are typically in science oriented majors, the SC 130 students are taking the course as a general education elective and are often in non-scientific fields. The MS 101 students should perform more strongly on the pre-assessment than the SC 130 students. Thus the difference in performance, which is small, cannot safely be attributed to the pre-requisite of MS 100 College Algebra that exists for MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry.

Again, plotting tabular data was a lone strength for SC 130 students amid weak performance on the other items.


I realize that instructors tend to fall back on a hand-waving argument that while retention is poor, prior exposure to the subject permits the student to more quickly come up to speed on the prior material.

The same pre-assessment was used in SC 130 Physical Science spring 2014. Two students from that spring section joined the MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry section summer 2014. This provided a sequence of three scores, a January pre-assessment, a May post-assessment, and a June pre-assessment on the same material.

In the same order, one student answered 1, 8, and 3 correctly. Although there was loss of knowledge, the loss was not complete. The other student answered 1, 6, and 6 correctly. The two scores of six were not on identical questions. The second student arguably retained knowledge gained by the end of SC 130. Two students is too small a sample size on which to draw any meaningful conclusions, only hinting as the possibility of retention beyond the end of the SC 130 course.

MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry will not be directly teaching the pre-assessment material, the students are presumed to know this material already. Clearly they do not know the material, but the course will proceed into exponential functions. The pre-assessment provides the instructor with the guidance that he will have to proceed with care and not presume student skills in the pre-requisite material.

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