Mathematical Preparation and Success In Introductory Physics

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Joe Whitehead

Advisor Department

Physics and Astronomy


Two surveys were administered during the fall semester of 2001 to identify the parameters that impact student performance in introductory physics. The participants included introductory physics students and their instructors. A statistical analysis was done to determine, in particular, whether college or high school algebra and/or trigonometry performance served as predictors of physics performance. Implementing multiple linear regression analysis, the primary parameters that predicted student performance in introductory physics were college trigonometry and college GPA. Algebra I, algebra II, HS trigonometry, college algebra, high school GPA, MPEX components of reality link and math link, gender, and technology and biology majors did correlate individually with introductory physics performance but offered no explanation using a multiple linear regression analysis. Future explorations concerning the topic of this study would involve the examination of the details behind any significant correlation that exists among the parameters and between the parameters and introductory physics.