A study conducted by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) identified Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) as one of the top 17 colleges and universities, from among more than 200 schools surveyed, having "particularly successful" Calculus I programs.
"We are very happy to have ranked so well in the MAA study," said Bogdan Vernescu, professor and head of WPI's Mathematical Sciences Department. "Our faculty members have worked constantly to improve the calculus experience.
"In the early 1990s we introduced the use of computer labs for all calculus students. A few years ago we introduced summer placement tests for all incoming students, as well as multiple orientation sessions to ensure that students start at the level that best fits their backgrounds. The lecture delivery is tailored to the various groups of students and we provide additional support outside class. It's the work and dedication of faculty and staff that makes the real difference."
The MAA survey was the first phase of a National Science Foundation study, "Characteristics of Successful Programs in College Calculus." More than 200 colleges and universities participated, representing 660 calculus instructors, almost 900 calculus classes, and more than 34,000 students.
The five areas measured were passing rate, interest in continuing to Calculus II, general interest in continuing to pursue mathematics, enjoyment of mathematics, and confidence in mathematical ability.
The study will now proceed to a second phase in which the MAA will conduct an in-depth case study at each of the 17 selected programs to learn more about how each runs its Calculus I program. A team of three people will visit the WPI campus for three days during the fall of 2012 to conduct interviews with administrators, instructors, and students, as well as to observe Calculus I classes.