By: Marelis Acevedo
Stress and frustration govern the classrooms of Calculus at the University Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. If it was hard to pass Pre-calculus, much more difficult it is to pass Calculus. Each year more students fail or drop out of this class.
“I am frustrated, I put all my effort in class to obtain better grades, but I get the worst,” confessed Keishla Rodríguez, a third year student at the UPRM Chemistry Department.
Many students like Rodríguez strive to get good grades in Calculus but it seems useless. “The most difficult part of the class are the exams, the mathematicians problems they have are usually much more difficult than the ones discussed in class,” said Rodríguez.
This issue is reflected in the grades of students. The UPRM Office of Institutional Research and Planning (known by its acronym in Spanish as the OIIP) shows in its statistical reports for the 2009-2010 academic year had a 33.27 percent of students failed the calculus class. In year 2008-2009 13.62 percent, (or 19.65 percent less) students failed the class. These results suggest that every year it’s more difficult to pass the class.
Even more impressive is that in the academic year 2009-2010 22.72 and additional percent of students dropped out of the class, compared with the previous year.
A large number of students have repeated the class more than three times and continue doing so. “I have taken the course three times, including this semester. The first time I drop out, the second time, I failed and I hope this time I do not get another F on my curriculum,” said Rodríguez.
Students, in their desperation to pass the class, opt to request special permission to take it into neighboring universities such as in the UPR-Aguadilla, where they hope to pass the class with higher grades.
According to the statistics in Fact Book from the UPRAG Office of Planning and Institutional studies (OPEI), for the 2009-2010 academic year a 14.9 percent of students got an A in the class and only an 18.3 percent got an F in it. However, 23.9 percent drop out.
Apparently the students taking the class in the UPRAG get better grades than the UPRM where only a 3.57 percent of students in the 2009-2010 year obtained an A, according to the OIIP.
When we compare the average student who gets A-C grades in Calculus among both universities, UPRM and UPRAG, we note that the UPRAG have higher scores. Due to this many students decide not to waste more time at UPRM repeating this class and take the course in the UPRAG.
“I took calculus in Mayagüez once and I drop out, I was going to get an F. I asked permission to take the class in Aguadilla and in my first exam I got a 97 percent, in the other exams I did very well; I will pass the class with A,” said Krystel Navarro, sophomore in the Agricultural Sciences Department at UPRM.
Many students are going through a very bad economic crisis these past few years. Repeating this class often complicates more their situation because they waste time and money in college.
Some can not take their major courses because these have Calculus as a pre-requisite. These students are stuck without having more options than repeating the class.
“I have delayed a year in mathematics courses because I failed to pass the Calculus class; I lost more than $564 since I don’t receive the Pell Grant,” said Rodríguez.
According to the statistics of the OIIP in the 2009-2010 academic year there entered approximately $527,716 in the UPRM Mathematics Department Fund. This money is from students that did not pass or drop out in Calculus.
Every year more students are stuck in the same course in mathematics and the Department sees the need to open more sections but does not open them for lack of funds. According to a motion headed by Professor Silvestre Colón, Chairman of the Board of professors, at least 15 additional seats are needed to meet the demand of students.
During the first half of the 2009-2010 academic year Mathematics Department enrolled 7898 students with only 52 teachers and 44 assistants, each one with approximately 82 students, according to Professor Columbus’s motion.
The Mathematics Department has always had a bad reputation because students do not pass the classes. It seen that each year the situation might be worsening.