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Bressoud, D. (2015, June 6). Calculus at crisis II: The rush to calculus [Web log post]. Retrieved from

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The Impact of Prior Exposure to Calculus

1Department of Mathematics, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, United States

American Journal of Educational Research. 2019, Vol. 7 No. 3, 237-243
DOI: 10.12691/education-7-3-8
Copyright © 2019 Science and Education Publishing

Cite this paper:
Matthew R. Schraeder, Laura J. Pyzdrowski, David A. Miller. The Impact of Prior Exposure to Calculus. American Journal of Educational Research. 2019; 7(3):237-243. doi: 10.12691/education-7-3-8.

Correspondence to: Matthew  R. Schraeder, Department of Mathematics, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, United States. Email:


Many students who take calculus in high school opt to retake the course in college. This study investigated the impact of that prior exposure. Students were invited to complete a survey about their experiences with calculus, with eight being interviewed afterwards. While students nearly unanimously agreed that prior experience with calculus was a benefit, none felt that it was a necessity to succeed in a college calculus course. Also, a few students identified some detriments to having taken calculus in high school, mostly stemming from an inadequate high school class. Despite the students’ perceptions, Pearson’s Chi Square Tests identified a significant difference in both the students’ success (pass/fail) and letter grades based on the method of placement into Calculus I (testing in via a placement test did better than taking the pre-requisite courses), but not based on either prior exposure to calculus or type of calculus taken during high school (AP and taking the test, AP and not taking the test, non-AP, or no calculus). A survey on student perceptions identified calculus as the most beneficial class to take before Calculus I, but interviews indicated algebra and trigonometry as the most beneficial.