Evaluation of Project CALC 1989-1994

Below is a copy of the Table of Contents and the Executive Summary of the Evaluation of Project CALC. This report was submitted to NSF in 1994. For a full copy of the report, contact me at : bookman@math.duke.edu


  • Executive Summary
  • Statement by Evaluation Consultant
  • The Report
  • Appendices:
    Appendix I Description of Project CALC
    Appendix II Goals and Objectives of Project CALC
    Appendix III Interim Report (Formative Evaluation)
    Appendix IV A Comparison of the Problem Solving Performance of Students in Lab Based and Traditional Calculus (Bookman and Friedman, Research in Collegiate Mathematics Education, 1994)
    Appendix V The retention test - attitudes, skills, concepts, problem solving and writing
    Appendix VI Attitudes and Calculus Reform (Bookman and Friedman, School Science and Mathematics, 1998).
    Appendix VII Transcripts of interviews conducted in the followup study
    Appendix VIII List of test sites

    Executive Summary:

    Project CALC is now ending its fourth year of funding under National Science Foundation grant# DUE - 8953961. The project has been largely successful and it has been adopted as the standard calculus course at Duke for students who have not received Advanced Placement credit. The course has been tried and/or adopted at 32 test sites. A text, lab manual and instructor's manual have been developed. This evaluation focused largely on comparing Project CALC students (PC) with traditionally taught students (TR) on a set of student outcomes including attitudes, skills, concepts, problem solving and writing.

    Strengths of the project :

  • Students in PC became better problem solvers in the sense that they were better able to formulate mathematical interpretations of verbal problems and solve and interpret the results of some verbal problems that required calculus in their solution.
  • Although during their first months in the course, most students dislike the course, their attitudes gradually change. When surveyed one and two years after the course, PC students felt, significantly more so than the TR students, that they better understood how math was used and that they had been required to understand math rather than memorize formulas.
  • Observations of students in class showed that PC students are much more actively engaged than were TR students.
  • The evidence gathered indicates some improvements in continuation rates from Calculus I to Calculus II and from there into more advanced mathematics classes.

    Weaknesses of the project :

  • The text, The Calculus Reader, has been the source of many student and faculty complaints. In response to these complaints, revisions have been and continue to be made.
  • PC students do less well on computational skills involving symbolic manipulation. This has been the main emphasis of the TR course. Whereas, there is a danger in overemphasizing computational skills at the expense of other things, PC students should leave the course with better abilities in this area. It is the opinion of the faculty that this problem can be remedied by including more practice with routine calculations.

    Other issues :

  • When a standard 4 point grade point average (GPA) for all math related courses was calculated for the students who had Calculus I and II during the 1990-91 academic year (the first year that PC was taught to a large group of students) and who had at least two more math related courses by the middle of their senior year, PC students did on the average about .2 worse per course. An interpretation of this result is that PC students are being less well prepared for courses that are taught in a traditional fashion; this may have no bearing on whether they will be better scientists, engineers, or economists. For the same group of students, there was virtually no difference in their math GPA or their GPA in all physics, engineering, math and CPS courses.
  • PC appears to violate students' deeply held beliefs about what mathematics is and asks them to give up or adapt their coping strategies for dealing with mathematics courses.

    Unresolved issues:

  • No cost-benefit analysis has been conducted. It is more expensive to deliver this course to the students because of the labs and need for lab T.A.'s. No attempt has been made in this evaluation to determine if the benefits were worth the extra costs.
  • No evaluation has been done at the test sites. This is something that should be done and can be done with additional funding.

    For more information about Project CALC go to