First-Time Freshman Student Experience With the Placement Exam and Remedial Mathematics: A Phenomenological Study

Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctorate of Education, Ed.D.


College of Education



First Advisor

Floralba A Marrero, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Alicia Holland, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Deborah Jones, Ed.D.


Many students arrive at college underprepared to complete college-level mathematics. One reason for this may be the lack of preparation and information shared with students about the community college math placement exam. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological research study was to gain a deeper understanding of first-time freshman student experience and perceptions with the community college mathematics placement exam and subsequent remedial mathematics placement. Social constructivism provided the conceptual framework for this study, which focused on the way that individuals seek to develop meaning from lived experiences with their culture and society. Data collection included information collected from nine participants who completed one on one in-depth interviews, written reflections, and participated in a focus group. The three themes that emerged from data collection were implications of time in remediation, lack of guidance related to remediation, and study habits. The results of the study revealed that participants felt that they were not prepared for the placement exam due to time between completing a mathematics course and taking the placement exam. Participants attributed high school factors such as large classes and teacher availability as being a factor in their remedial placement. Participants also recalled a lack of understanding and guidance provided from both high school and community college leadership that properly informed them of the nature of the exam. Finally, participants indicated how they came to accept their remedial math placement and changed study habits by using institutional and personal resources to progress out of the remedial course.

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