Students' confidence in the ability to transfer basic math skills in introductory physics and chemistry courses at a community college

Reginald Quinn, University of Southern Mississippi

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the confidence levels that community college students have in transferring basic math skills to science classes, as well as any factors that influence their confidence levels. This study was conducted with 196 students at a community college in central Mississippi. The study was conducted during the month of November after all of the students had taken their midterm exams and received midterm grades. The instrument used in this survey was developed and validated by the researcher. The instrument asks the students to rate how confident they were in working out specific math problems and how confident they were in working problems using those specific math skills in physics and chemistry. The instrument also provided an example problem for every confidence item. Results revealed that students' demographics were significant predictors in confidence scores. Students in the 18-22 year old range were less confident in solving math problems than others. Students who had retaken a math course were less confident than those who had not. Chemistry students were less confident in solving math problems than those in physics courses. Chemistry II students were less confident than those in Chemistry I and Principals of Chemistry. Students were least confident in solving problems involving logarithms and the most confident in solving algebra problems. In general, students felt that their math courses did not prepare them for the math problems encountered in science courses. There was no significant difference in confidence between students who had completed their math homework online and those who had completed their homework on paper. The researcher recommends that chemistry educators find ways of incorporating more mathematics in their courses especially logarithms and slope. Furthermore, math educators should incorporate more chemistry related applications to math class. Results of hypotheses testing, conclusions, discussions, and recommendations for future research are included.