Student and high-school characteristics related to completing a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) major in college

Brandon LeBeau, Michael Harwell, Debra Monson, Danielle Dupuis, Amanuel Medhanie, Thomas R. Post

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: The importance of increasing the number of US college students completing degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) has prompted calls for research to provide a better understanding of factors related to student participation in these majors, including the impact of a student's high-school mathematics curriculum. Purpose: This study examines the relationship between various student and high-school characteristics and completion of a STEM major in college. Of specific interest is the influence of a student's high-school mathematics curriculum on the completion of a STEM major in college. Sample: The sample consisted of approximately 3500 students from 229 high schools. Students were predominantly Caucasian (80%), with slightly more males than females (52% vs 48%). Design and method: A quasi-experimental design with archival data was used for students who enrolled in, and graduated from, a post-secondary institution in the upper Midwest. To be included in the sample, students needed to have completed at least three years of high-school mathematics. A generalized linear mixed model was used with students nested within high schools. The data were cross-sectional. Results: High-school predictors were not found to have a significant impact on the completion of a STEM major. Significant student-level predictors included ACT mathematics score, gender and high-school mathematics GPA. Conclusions: The results provide evidence that on average students are equally prepared for the rigorous mathematics coursework regardless of the high-school mathematics curriculum they completed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-28
Number of pages12
JournalResearch in Science and Technological Education
Volume30
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012

Keywords

  • STEM
  • college majors
  • engineering/mathematics
  • high-school mathematics curricula

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