Using survival analysis to discovering pathways to success in Mathematics
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Computers in Human Behavior (2017)

Abstract Mathematics is viewed as essential to the economic competitiveness of the United States on the global stage (US Department of Education). As a part of the core Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, mathematics is vital to the nation’s economic prosperity, yet enrollment in STEM fields at the college/university level has remained relatively stable, despite millions of dollars expended to improve STEM education and retention. Most extant research focuses on innovations within classroom settings that can improve learning outcomes for students pursuing STEM majors. Additional research is needed in examining how the sequencing of courses taken by students can help or hinder their progress toward the successful completion of a STEM degree. In this first phase of our research, quantitative analytics was used to identify the impact of specific courses on students’ risk of dropping out of a Math major. Findings suggest a general inverse correlation between academic performance and attrition: good performance predicts lower attrition rates. Survival analysis indicated that the further a student goes within the math major, the greater the risk of dropping out. Students in a Math major tend to be more likely to drop out after their 4th year compared to their first three years. In general, students show increased inclination to switch majors from their second year and those students who have stayed in the program for too long are very likely to switch to another major.
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