Plenary Speaker Profile (2018-19)
Chris Rasmussen
Professor of Mathematics Education
San Diego State University
Insights from Two National Studies of Precalculus through Calculus 2

In this presentation I report on results and insights from two national studies of Precalculus through Calculus 2. The first project, Progress through Calculus, is an investigation of the factors that influence student success over the Precalculus through Calculus 2 (P2C2) sequence required of most STEM majors. As part of this project we conducted a census survey of all mathematics departments that offer a graduate degree in mathematics. From this, I report the viewpoints of departments about features shown to support students’ success, as well as the extent to which these features are being implemented across the country. The second project, Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning, is investigating departmental change that contributes to teaching and learning environments that improve student learning in the P2C2 sequence, with a particular focus on the use of active learning strategies. Changing department culture, norms, and practices to support widespread use of active learning is notoriously difficult, and case studies of departments that have successfully made such changes are rare. I highlight the practices and policies of two, research-oriented mathematics departments that have made considerable progress on the challenge of infusing active learning into their introductory mathematics courses in sustainable and widespread ways. In particular, I highlight how departmental and institutional leadership; P2C2 structures such as course coordination; use of data; student resources such as learning or tutoring centers; and professional development have been mutually supportive to initiate, implement, and sustain active learning in P2C2 courses at these two institutions.

Chris Rasmussen is Professor of mathematics education and associate chair in the department of mathematics and statistics at San Diego State University. He received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics, and Mathematics Education, respectively. After receiving his undergraduate degree he served as a Peace Corp Volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He is currently an Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education. His research investigates inquiry-oriented approaches to the learning and teaching of undergraduate mathematics, focusing on how mathematical ideas are developed through student exploration and teacher-student classroom discourse. His work in differential equations and linear algebra has led to the development of research-based curricula that begin with students’ informal or intuitive ideas to progressively build more formal mathematics. He has also been at the forefront of a national study of successful calculus programs, which identified a number of programmatic features that are common among the programs identified as being more successful than peer institutions. Currently, he is co-PI on two national studies of the Precalculus to Calculus 2 sequence with the goal of better understanding current departmental practices related to these courses, the process of departmental and institutional change, and ways that professional organizations can support and help sustain such change.