Understanding the Quantitative and Computational Skills of Incoming Biology Students

By Charles Umbanhowar Jr1, Jason M Belitsky2, P. Brodfuehrer, Gregory Davis3, T. Haque, L. Lee, C. McFadden, Paul Overvoorde4, M. Preest, Liz Stanhope, M. Vinces, Andrew Zieffler, Laura Ziegler

1. St Olaf College 2. Oberlin College 3. Bryn Mawr College 4. Macalester College

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Insufficient mathematical preparation has been linked to the failure of incoming students to persist in STEM-related majors.  In addition, recent advances in computation allow biologists to use increasingly complex quantitative and computational methods to visualize and analyze data.  To address these challenges, several educational and professional organizations have proposed changes for undergraduate biology curricula that aim to develop students' quantitative skills as applied to biological problems.  The purpose of this presentation is to introduce the Biological Science Quantitative Reasoning Exam (BioSQuaRE), a freely available, selected-response assessment instrument that aims to measure the quantitative skills of undergraduates within a biological context.  BioSQuaRE is a collaborative effort between eight institutions, and provides information about potential strengths and weaknesses in the quantitative reasoning skills of life science students.  Included is (a) discussion instrument development, (b) comparison with other mathematical and quantitative skills assessments, and (c) an update of status and availability of BioSQuaRE.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Charles Umbanhowar Jr; Jason M Belitsky; P. Brodfuehrer; Gregory Davis; T. Haque; L. Lee; C. McFadden; Paul Overvoorde; M. Preest; Liz Stanhope; M. Vinces; Andrew Zieffler; Laura Ziegler (2015), "Understanding the Quantitative and Computational Skills of Incoming Biology Students," https://qubeshub.org/resources/806.

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