If you have been to university or college recently in a science-related discipline then you may have encountered a mathematics diagnostic quiz. Some institutions use them to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their incoming students. Most institutions keep the results internal and some locations use the results to triage the students into different math course sections. You know – put the best students together to accelerate their learning and assemble the weakest students together to provide them the help they need to catch up. However, if your institution chooses not to adopt this approach then you can use the mathematics diagnostic quiz to enable students to help themselves.
The idea is to choose the Top 10 Competencies that students should be comfortable with in order to be successful in the first 6 weeks of the first semester math course. Then to squarely align the mathematics diagnostic quiz on these Top 10 Competencies. After students take the quiz, you can report the results not only as their overall score, but you can also report which of the Top 10 Competencies they have demonstrated and which they have not yet demonstrated. Armed with this information, students can take matters into their own hands and brush-up on the competencies they have not demonstrated.
The online product can go one step further and provide 10 different short tutorials that align directly with the Top 10 Competencies. Students who wish remedial information can refer directly to the short tutorial elements that match their individual performance. Furthermore, it would be good practice to embed small self-assessment quizzes in each of the 10 Tutorial elements to allow students to self-assess their knowledge and skills after they complete the tutorial. Then it is up to them to decide when to be satisfied with their personal performance.
All this to enable students to help themselves BEFORE they become your students in the Fall semester. What do you think of this strategy? Have you seen similar ones employed? Do you think there are other useful ways to help students academically before the first day of class? Let us know with a comment.