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Math & Computer Science

Placement Information

Mathematics Placement Information

Social and Natural Science Majors
Most Social and Natural Science majors are required to take Statistics (MAT52-114) and/or Calculus I (MAT52-154). It is extremely important to consult with your advisor before choosing your mathematics course.

Non-Science Majors
We recommend that non-Science majors take Explorations in Mathematics (MAT52-104), Statistics (MAT52-114), Calculus I (MAT52-154) and/or Computer Science I (CSC54-184). Although Elementary Function Theory (MAT52-124) is an option, it is primarily a course designed for EC-6 and 4-8 certification education majors for which it is a requirement and also designed to prepare students with a weak background for Calculus I.

Calculus I or Elementary Function Theory?
Students who wish to take Calculus I (MAT52-154) must have acquired mastery of high school level pre-calculus. This includes high school algebra, trigonometry, and exponential and logarithmic functions. Students are now required to take and pass a pre-Calculus Assessment prior to their fourth day of Calculus I. Please see the instructions below.  It may be advisable for unprepared students to first take Elementary Function Theory before attempting to take Calculus I.

Calculus I or Calculus II?
Students who wish to take Calculus II (MAT52-254) must have a minimum of C- in Calculus I (MAT52-154) or equivalent. Transfer credit for Calculus I allows entry into Calculus II without consultation. For AP credit, see below.

Exam Placement
An AP score of 4 or 5 on the Calculus AB exam yields credit for Calculus I. An AP score of 4 or 5 on the Calculus BC exam yields credit for Calculus I and Calculus II. Those with AP scores of 3 should consult with a Calculus instructor to aid their placement.

Computer Science Placement Information

Exam Placement
The Computer Science A exam yields credit for Computer Science I; the B exam yields credit for both Computer Science I and II.

Non-Science Majors
Explorations in Computing is an appropriate course for non-majors. However, both Explorations in Computing and Computer Science I are appropriate for students with no previous programming experience. 

Instructions for pre-Calculus Assessment exam:

ALEKS Calculus Readiness Assessment

ALEKS = Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces. The ALEKS Calculus Placement Test (hereinafter referred to simply as “ALEKS”) is an assessment of readiness for calculus, testing skills in numeric manipulations, algebra, logarithms, exponentials, and trigonometry. It is an adaptive test: later test questions are selected based on responses to earlier questions. The initial placement assessment quickly and accurately determines what a student knows and doesn’t know in precalculus. ALEKS then provides a learning module that instructs students on the topics they are most ready to learn. The students’ scores improve with mastery of each module. ALEKS provides an opportunity to let students know whether they are prepared to be successful in calculus. ALEKS also provides an opportunity for students to become prepared and to refresh their precalculus skills.

Sole prerequisite for Math 154:

Effective in Fall 2015 at SU, an ALEKS score of 70% or higher for Math 154 (Calculus I) is the only prerequisite for these courses. In the absence of the requisite ALEKS scores, prior coursework and high ACT scores are no longer sufficient for taking Math 154. The prerequisite is to increase your chances for doing well in Calculus! Obviously, those enrolling in Calculus must be prepared to take it.

Getting help and academic integrity:

For the purpose of learning the material covered by ALEKS, you may use any resources available: the ALEKS Learning Module, books, and other people. But once you begin a scheduled assessment, you will want to do your own work with books closed and only a piece of paper and pencil. Otherwise, the ALEKS score will not reflect your mastery of these topics, and may result in your not succeeding in Math 154. On questions that need a calculator, ALEKS will provide you one.

If you get help from a person or an open book while taking the ALEKS Placement Test, in addition to violating our Honor Code, you run the risk of placing yourself into a course for which you are not adequately prepared. Don’t do it. SU Pirates are honest with themselves and with others!

How to sign up for ALEKS:

Go to www.aleks.com and click “SIGN UP NOW.” You’ll use the 10-digit course code provided to you in the email you received after registering for Calculus to register for the Southwestern Calculus Placement Exam. You’ll need to purchase an access code using a credit card in order to access the system. ALEKS will guide you through this process. If for any reason you cannot pay with a credit card, feel free to contact Kelly Lessard (lessardk@southwestern.edu) or Viola Hunt (huntv@southwestern.edu) for help with this part of the registration.

Two sides to ALEKS: Placement Exams and Learning Modules:

Upon entering ALEKS through the above steps, the student will eventually work in two areas, one will be Placement Exams and the other will be Learning Modules. The first time the student enters ALEKS, the Learning Modules are not available, and the student can enter ALEKS only through taking the initial assessment; it takes about 90 minutes. After the student completes the initial assessment, ALEKS presents a report listing the precalculus topics the student has a good command of, and a list of precalculus topics that the student has not yet mastered. If the student is not satisfied with his/her initial score, the student should then use the Learning Module portion of ALEKS which appears as a shaded pie on the main screen. The student will have access to the Learning Module and the entire ALEKS system for only six weeks starting from the first time he/she logs on to ALEKS. Caution: After the expiration of the 6-week period of access, the student loses all chances to take the assessment again and will have to start over with a new $25 account. The ALEKS website does not warn the student of this rule.

Do not confuse the “initial” assessment with the “progress” assessment:

In the Learning Module, in addition to short, easy-to-follow lessons, there is also something called an assessment, which is a practice or “progress” assessment mirroring the assessment for placement. Scores on the progress assessment do not count as your assessment score. During the 6-week Learning Module access period, the Learning Module and the progress assessment can be accessed without limit. After the student has mastered some new topics in the Learning Module, he/she may attempt a second Placement Exam by clicking on the Assignments tab. Students can take at most one placement exam per week (for up to 6 chances to pass the exam). Only the scores earned on the placement exam will be used to place you into Calculus.

Initial ALEKS score too low:

If a student’s score on the initial placement assessment is too low, he or she should proceed to the Learning Module and go through the lessons for several topics. Students should expect to require 2-3 hours’ work on the ALEKS Learning Module lessons for each 1% increase in ALEKS score needed. Once the score on the progress assessment is 70% or higher, the student should retake the placement exam by clicking the assignments tab and taking the scheduled exam for that week.

For students who will eventually need Math 154, but who cannot achieve the required ALEKS score in time for the upcoming semester, the Math department recommends taking Math 124 or off-campus Pre-calculus class and consulting their academic advisor. It is expected that earning an A or B in Math 124 will make it easy for the student to get a requisite ALEKS score; however, the A or B by itself does not qualify a student to take calculus.

When to take ALEKS:

Here there are several factors to consider:

  1. 1. ALEKS tests students’ knowledge of algebra, trigonometry, and logarithms and exponentials. Consequently, students currently taking SU’s Elementary Function Theory or taking a high school math course equivalent to Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry, or any calculus course that includes trigonometry, should probably wait until they have completed or almost completed that course before beginning ALEKS. Students who earn an A or B in such a course can expect to do well on the initial ALEKS assessment; other students can also achieve a requisite ALEKS score if they are prepared to spend sufficient time with the ALEKS learning module. (While precalculus courses will help prepare the student to take ALEKS, the ALEKS learning module will, conversely, help a student master topics in his or her precalculus courses.)

2. Students should take the initial ALEKS assessment early enough to allow time to make sufficient progress in the ALEKS Learning Module, if needed, or to schedule a lower math course.

  1. 3. Students must complete and pass the ALEKS assessment with a 70% or above by the 4th day of classes in the semester in which they plan to take Calculus or the student will be dropped from the class.
  2. 4. Those students who do not pass the ALEKS test by this date can also purchase semester-long access to ALEKS to continue their remediation and can work towards passing the assessment in time for the next semester. This will cost additional funds, but could help you to not take additional pre-calculus courses at SU or elsewhere.

Computer system requirements:

Students will need to install the free ALEKS plug-in on their computers before they can begin the ALEKS course; go to www.aleks.com/downloads to get this plug-in. Most internet browsers seem to work well with ALEKS, with the exception of Mozilla Firefox, which often freezes up during the ALEKS sign-up process. For ALEKS Technical Support, go to www.aleks.com/faqs/technical.

Do I really need ALEKS?

Q1. I have credit in Math 154 and I already have an ALEKS score of 70% or higher, but I earned a D in Math 154 and need to repeat it. Do I need to re-take ALEKS?

A1. Yes and no: Your score must be fresh (i.e., no more than 180 days old on the first day of classes in Math 154) for the semester in which you want to re-take Math 154. A score earned during certain periods can be fresh for two consecutive semesters, while scores earned in other periods may be fresh for only one semester.

Q2. If I have credit in Math 254 and need to take Math 154, do I still need ALEKS?

A2. Yes.

Q4. If I want to earn or if I have earned credit in Math 154 through AP Calculus courses taken in high school, through the CLEP or the IB math exam, or through transfer credit, do I need ALEKS?

A4. No, unless you want to take Math 154 at SU even after having earned credit in Math 154.

Miscellaneous questions about ALEKS:

Q1. Does ALEKS give me credit in Math 124 or any other course?

A1. No.

Q2. I got an ALEKS score of 82%, but do not feel confident about my precalculus skills (trig and college algebra). I know my ALEKS score will let me schedule calculus, but should I?

A2. This is where you need to take charge. If it’s just a case of nervousness, don’t let the word “calculus” intimidate you. But if you really feel that you are not in command of trig or college algebra, then you could consider taking Math 124 (Elementary Function Theory). However, if you already have credit in any of these courses, consult an academic advisor about the rules for repeating courses.

SU Math contact person:

For non-technical, procedural questions about ALEKS, contact Dr. Alison Marr or Dr. Therese Shelton, ALEKS Coordinators, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, marra@southwestern.edu or shelton@southwestern.edu.

*Content regarding the ALEKS precalculus assessment adapted from LSU’s Department of Mathematics