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10-06-21-math-114-photo-illustration-adya-gupta

"Bridge to Math 114", a website launched by the Student Committee on  Undergraduate Education, is designed to support incoming students taking the course.

Credit: Adya Gupta

The Student Committee on Undergraduate Education launched “Bridge to Math 114,” a website that provides supplementary preparatory materials for students taking the course this semester.

The project, led by College sophomore and SCUE member Iris Horng, reviews core concepts and prerequisite knowledge so that students can enter MATH 114: Calculus, Part II with more confidence regardless of their previous calculus experience. 

“One of the main reasons I wanted to do this project is that when [first years] come in they’re all stressed out, especially with big intro courses like MATH 114 and 104,” Horng said.

She added that because different high schools have different calculus curricula, preparation for MATH 114 isn’t standardized. Horng said the website aims to tell students exactly what will be expected of them in the course.

The website offers pages of notes and explanations covering a broad range of topics from first and second derivatives to Taylor series and parametric equations. The material is accompanied by suggested approaches to reviewing the topics depending on the most recent calculus class students took, starting from AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, or MATH 104. 

The preparation materials were provided by former students and teaching assistants, as well as textbooks and online resources.

College first year Ria Ellendula has been using the website to study for quizzes by reviewing key formulas and concepts from each chapter.

“I’ve found the website useful because it allows me to identify what parts I actually need to learn more in depth,” Ellendula said. “It’s a great website to establish a metric before you start studying.” 

SCUE chose to create the website for the course after a survey conducted in spring 2021 found that students were most interested in a website for MATH 114 compared to other courses. 

MATH 114 currently has an average difficulty level of 3.4 on Penn Course Review, and some students, including Ellendula, attributed the rigor of the course to the complexity of its content. Penn Course Review is a student-run service that provides numerical ratings and metrics for undergraduate courses and professors based on students' ratings.

“Personally, I was not used to the rigor of the questions on the MATH 114 quizzes,” Ellendula said. “I think math in general is a bit of a tougher subject to teach because it’s very application-based and can’t be memorized.”

Horng, who took the class last fall, believes that changes to the calculus curriculum in fall 2020 have made the course more difficult. The changes included switching from midterm exams to weekly quizzes and ensuring coordination across professors and sections.

“Because of the change in the new curriculum, students couldn't really get help from upperclassmen, because they took a different curriculum,” Horng said. “The TA’s weren’t familiar with it either.”

Horng expects that the website paired with the Math Diagnostic Test that students must take before starting at Penn will act similarly to the Penn Chemistry Learning Assessment and Support System. The system, called PennCLASS, is a mandatory set of assessments designed to evaluate course readiness and provide tutorials on unfamiliar material for students enrolling in CHEM 101: General Chemistry I. 

SCUE also co-hosted a study hall in September with the Penn Undergraduate Math Society before one of the Friday quizzes.

The event, titled "PUMS x SCUE: Math Study Hall," allowed students to review topics, go over practice problems, and ask questions with teaching assistants for MATH 103, 104, 114, and 116. Engineering senior and SCUE External Chair Aidan Young said more than 100 students attended, which he hopes indicates high interest for the project’s expansion.

Young added that SCUE hopes the MATH 114 programming could turn into a preceptorial during NSO. Preceptorials are informal, non-credit, conference-style seminars which are generally offered at the beginning of the school year. 

“With the success we’ve seen in the website, as well as at the study session, hopefully this turns into not just a website but something maybe physical that happens at the beginning of the semester during [New Student Orientation], which was our original plan,” Young said. 

Above all, Young said he hopes that “Bridge to Math 114” will help students enter college-level math courses with more confidence. 

“A big problem students run into in the first few weeks of college is that they lose a lot of confidence,” Young said. “By just going to the website and looking at it and realizing, ‘Okay, I know how to do some of the stuff, I can take Math 114,’ I think that type of confidence is probably more valuable than any of the actual content.”

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