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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a nearly $200,000 grant to West Los Angeles College (West) to pilot a computer-aided pre-calculus class with the goal of increasing the number of students who succeed in Calculus and qualify to enter science and technology career pathways.

According to the college’s grant application, many community college students intending to major in science, technology, engineering and/or math (STEM) are underprepared for calculus so precalculus has become a gateway course for many STEM majors.

However, because of low student success in precalculus, the course creates a major constriction in the STEM pipeline. With the NSF grant, West will develop a supplementary computer science course centered on precalculus topics that is paired with the pre-calculus course. Up to 60 students will experience the paired courses during the grant period and their success rates in pre-calculus, calculus and transferring to universities will be compared to students in traditional precalculus classes.

“We’re excited about this pilot,” said WLAC Computer Science Professor Manish Patel. “It will provide valuable insight into how computer programming can elevate student success in precalculus and calculus. If we’re successful, it’s an approach that can be adapted widely in high schools and colleges and increase the volume and diversity of students pursuing STEM majors.”

“Project results will also add to the body of knowledge on how using computing to teach precalculus can help underserved and underperforming students gain access to STEM disciplines,” explained Academic Affairs Vice President Jeff Archibald, Ed.D. “The project team will share project and research results with other educational institutions locally, regionally, and nationally. Additionally, our project faculty will be available to assist others interested in this approach through on-site and online consultation.“

West Los Angeles College is an ACCJC accredited community college offering career certificates and degrees, university transfer, and professional advancement courses. STEM programs include traditional university transfer paths in science, computer science, engineering and medical professions as well as two-year degrees and shorter-term certificate programs in information technology, biotechnology, health care and aviation technology.

West is one of only 15 California community colleges authorized to offer a Bachelor’s degree in a subject. For West, that subject is Dental Hygiene. More information about the college can be found at WLAC.edu.