A “common” final exam used for some math courses has prompted an online petition.
As finals begin, some students in lower-level math classes find themselves taking common exams, no matter the instructor. However, some students, in disagreement with the exams, are speaking out against them.
The fact that not all instructors contribute to the creation of the generic exams, used in courses such Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus I, is worrisome for some students preparing themselves for the test.
In fact, a change.org petition, now at 18 signatures, was created in relation to the exams. The petition argues that the mathematics department’s “exams are not representative of the material learned in lecture and given in homework,” and that its grading policies are not beneficial to students.
Derrick Duncan, a sophomore computer science major, said students agonize over the difficulty of the exam questions and panic about not knowing what material will be on the final.
“As many of the students who have never taken a Calc I exam from Temple’s math department have found out, the exams can be very deceptive and unforgiving to those who do not know the right material in and out,” he said.
Edward Letzter, professor and department chair of the department of mathematics, said that the fundamental issue for these math classes is to ensure that all students in these classes are prepared for the next step in their career field.
It is crucial that a student in one section and a student in another section are both getting prepared properly for the next course or courses in the sequence, he said.
Temple’s Math and Science Resource Center has review sessions for classes which are subject to the common exams.
“The basic issue is that all of this information is the same, but the instructors are different. Our aim is to make the system work as smoothly as possible,” Letzter said. “The course coordinators monitor the sections, and they will work with the instructors to see where they are up to and do their best to help the students.”
Review sheets are given out generally a week before exams, and students can visit the MSRC to get answers to related questions.
“Giving them out earlier would harm the process,” Letzter added. “We are constantly trying to communicate with the instructors to find out where they are in regards to course material.”
But Duncan and other students, however, said that professors are unable to adequately field questions about material on the exams.
Sophomore pre-pharmacy major Merynda Rensimer said she is upset about the situation because her professor cannot answer questions about what exactly will be on the exam.
“My thoughts are that the common final exam is not a total waste,” Charles Langley, a junior math and computer science major, said. “However, there should be more communication between math professors about where they are in their course teaching.”
“The thing that does concern me about this is that one teacher might be behind in a certain area for whatever reason and it wouldn’t really be beneficial to have stuff on the final that has not been discussed thoroughly,” Langley said. “I haven’t really experienced feeling behind myself, however, I know this to be the case around a good number of math classes.”
Maura Lieberman can be reached at email@example.com.