What Do College Students Know?

What do College Students Know?

That question was asked by W. Stephen Wilson of JHU a couple of years ago.

Dr Wilson gave his 2006 students the same calculus test that he’d given to his students in 1989.  The Math SAT scores these students had received and the proportion of engineering v/s general studies students was pretty much the same.

What did he discover? Based on the 1989 grading scale  27% of 1989 students earned A’s and 23% earned B’s, while 6% of 2006 students earned A’s and 21% earned B’s.  Based on the 2006 grading scale 52% of 1989 students earned A’s and 26% earned B’s, while 32% of 2006 students earned A’s and 37% earned B’s.  Either way you look at it, fewer 2006 students earned A’s and B’s than 1989 students.

Dr Wilson wondered why and extrapolates his own theory to explain the sharp decline in this article.

His conclusion – the NCTM standards, which advocate the use of calculators by children in K – 12 education, has undermined students learning. The College Boards made made the problem worse when they allowed calculators to be used on the SATs in 1994 because Colleges and Universities no longer had a means of assessing students true mathematical knowledge.

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