A calculus of success

The calculus program at Santa Fe was recently identified by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) as a college with a remarkable level of success in its calculus program.  This finding was part of a National Science Foundation survey of calculus programs across the country that sought to identify best practices in instruction, student retention and progression, and even student confidence and enjoyment of the subject.

In the fall of 2010, over 200 colleges and universities across the United States were surveyed by the MAA – that’s nearly 700 instructors and 14,000 Calculus I students. Student surveys were conducted at both the start and end of the term. The MAA looked at factors that improved five measures: passing rate, interest in continuing on to Calculus II, general interest in continuing to pursue mathematics, enjoyment of mathematics and confidence in mathematical ability. Seventeen colleges and universities emerged as having particularly successful programs, and Santa Fe College is one of them.

The MAA Calculus study will continue when representatives visit the campus this Fall to conduct a case-study on the Santa Fe math department’s calculus program. They want to learn more about what Santa Fe is doing right.

“We are extremely pleased to be recognized by the MAA. It validates our reform approach and the level of rigor we expect from our students,” said Math Department Chair KateyArnold. “Calculus is challenging, but it can also be fun and enjoyable to study, and we believe we have found the right mix in our approach.”

The case study team of three people will make a three-day visit to each of the colleges or universities the MAA identified. The team will observe Calculus I classes and talk with instructors and students, as well as with administrators and faculty members in other departments that require Calculus I as a requisite for the major.

“We are looking forward to discussing our courses with our colleagues from the MAA to share our ideas and learn what the other exceptional programs across the country are doing,” Arnold added. “While this a great honor, it only tells us to keep doing what we do – push ourselves to explore new ideas and hold our students to our high expectations with the support to help them reach their potential.”