Smith College’s Calculus Training Groups Aim to Increase Retention in STEM Disciplines

One reason for low retention rates for women in some science disciplines is that some struggle with required mathematics curriculum. Smith College, a highly rated liberal arts educational institution for women in Northampton, Massachusetts, is addressing this problem with calculus training groups. Calculus is required in nine of the 10 STEM majors offered at Smith College.

Gary Felder, a professor of physics at Smith College notes that “90 percent of the time, if a student is having trouble in introductory physics, it’s because of their background in math. What we want to avoid is having people drop out of the pipeline because they are getting Cs in an introductory course.”

The calculus training groups were established in 2016. Four women training groups meet for an hour each week outside of class to review assignments and practice skills, Peer mentors, who are paid for their work, help guide first-year students through their mathematics assignments.

This semester 65 women applied to join the calculus training groups and 28 students are participating in seven groups. The mathematics department wants to increase the number of peer tutors in the future to meet the increased demand.

Filed Under: STEM FieldsWomen's Colleges


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