August 30, 2023
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Diego Fonseca looked at the computer and took a breath. It was his final attempt at the math placement test for his first year of college. His first three tries put him in pre-calculus, a blow for a student who aced honors physics and computer science in high school.
Functions and trigonometry came easily, but the basics gave him trouble. He struggled to understand algebra, a subject he studied only during a year of remote learning in high school.
“I didn’t have a hands-on, in-person class, and the information wasn’t really there,” said Fonseca, 19, of Ashburn, Virginia, a computer science major who hoped to get into calculus. “I really struggled when it came to higher-level algebra because I just didn’t know anything.”
Fonseca is among 100 students who opted to spend a week of summer break at George Mason University brushing up on math lessons that didn’t stick during pandemic schooling. The northern Virginia school started Math Boot Camp because of alarming numbers of students arriving with gaps in their math skills.
Colleges across the country are grappling with the same problem as academic setbacks from the pandemic follow students to campus. At many universities, engineering and biology majors are struggling to grasp fractions and exponents. More students are being placed into pre-college math, starting a semester or more behind for their majors, even if they get credit for the lower-level classes.