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ALEKS scores and accurate placement


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DD took the ALEKS cold and scored an abysmal 38.  She hadn't done math consistently since February, didn't feel confident, and marked "I don't know" when she didn't feel confident about the answer.  She then realized the necessity to brush up on it, spent a week doing the ALEKS prep stuff, retook the test and scored a 68. Obviously there is an incredible gap here.  I recognize the initial test didn't adequately reflect her abilities but my fear is the 68 may not and she'll end up in a class and discover she has gaps and have a discouraging first semester.  She has had college success in her dual enrolled classes but she has never taken a math class at CC.  She moves to the University in August and is young at 17.  Would you suggest placement in an easier math course initially? They offer a Math for BioMedical Sciences as a precursor to Pre Calc.  Keep in mind, I am intimidated by all things with "Calculus" in the title. DS took Calc I, II, and III and says not to worry about it - pre calc is simple.

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29 minutes ago, BlsdMama said:

DD took the ALEKS cold and scored an abysmal 38.  She hadn't done math consistently since February, didn't feel confident, and marked "I don't know" when she didn't feel confident about the answer.  She then realized the necessity to brush up on it, spent a week doing the ALEKS prep stuff, retook the test and scored a 68. Obviously there is an incredible gap here.  I recognize the initial test didn't adequately reflect her abilities but my fear is the 68 may not and she'll end up in a class and discover she has gaps and have a discouraging first semester.  She has had college success in her dual enrolled classes but she has never taken a math class at CC.  She moves to the University in August and is young at 17.  Would you suggest placement in an easier math course initially? They offer a Math for BioMedical Sciences as a precursor to Pre Calc.  Keep in mind, I am intimidated by all things with "Calculus" in the title. DS took Calc I, II, and III and says not to worry about it - pre calc is simple.

How much math has she done so far? How much math will her major require?

Can you get a look at the book for the PreCalc class? She may be fine, but if she has time, she could review potential trouble spots before class begins. PreCalc with a text like Blitzer or Bittinger could possibly be super straight forward if she otherwise has a good foundation.

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Will the Math for Biomedical Sciences directly help shore up her weaknesses before pre-Calc or is it more things like statistics, interpreting graphs and data, etc.? Did she take pre-Calc in high school? I’d consider the lower level course only if it is expressly designed to prepare for pre-Calc and covers her weak areas as diagnoses by the placement test. Otherwise, it might make more sense to spend time this summer focusing on her weaknesses in preparation for pre-Calc in the fall.

As someone with an MS in a math related field, I disagree with your son that pre-Calc is simple. In some ways, I actually found it more challenging than Calculus, primarily because it covered such a wide range of topics. But strong algebra skills combined with a rigorous pre-Calc class prepared me very well for success in Calculus. Of course everyone is different, and classes can vary widely, so YMMV.

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Schools can fine-tune the ALEKS scoring system to fit their course prerequisites. It sounds as if your daughter maybe didn’t perform her best on the first round, using that “I don’t know” more than she needed to, because of the confidence issue. Because ALEKS is adaptive, it asks harder questions as you get things right, and backs off when you get things wrong, so it is very unlikely to get an out of whack high score just by random guessing over the course of the entire test. My guess is that after the practice with ALEKS (which is a nice review system) her confidence perked up quite a bit and she not only remembered a few things, but she answered significantly more of the questions, moving up levels instead of backwards, which would increase her score by quite a bit.

If she scored enough to get into the pre-calc course by the skin of her teeth, she might consider backing off a level. If she has done fine through algebra II and she scored comfortably in the range to place into the course, she should probably feel comfortable taking precalc. She can always email the undergrad math advisor and ask if they have time to meet with her by zoom for questions if she is still uncertain; it is possible there will be time to do this during student orientation as well— though making an appointment ahead of time is still a good idea. But let it be her call, particularly if you are the one with math anxiety. In my experience, students are not usually “forced” into a class, but the academic advisor who helps with freshman course selection uses the placement exam as more of a maximum placement — though this is not necessarily a universal truth, I would be more surprised at it not working this way.

In sum, hold off. The test and her sibling are indicating she can handle this. Let her talk to her academic advisor during orientation, or whenever they do freshman scheduling. If everyone is feeling comfortable that this is the correct math placement for her, don’t be the person telling her she isn’t capable. If it’s really the wrong course, the math department wherever she is going is probably pretty accustomed to helping students migrate to different level courses in the first couple of weeks of drop/add, and she can handle it herself at that point— there are usually many sections of those early level courses, and spots open up in the first couple of weeks of class, oftentimes. it’s one of those college independence things to get through for both of you 😉 It’s not easy, but you’ll be enormously proud of her when she navigates it!

 

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