Another Statement on Calculus in High School

Dan Frohardt's opinion piece on pages 11-13 mentions the Building Bridges session held at the annual meeting of the section at CMU last May. The topic of teaching calculus in high school and alternatives to the calculus have been on the agenda for the Building Bridges sessions at the annual meetings of the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) and of the Michigan Section for the past two years. The Building Bridges sessions seek to build dialog between high school and college mathematics teachers on issues relating to the transition between high school and college mathematics.

After the annual meeting at CMU, a working group of high school and college teachers of mathematics met to work on a position paper on this issue. The goal was to submit a position paper to both MCTM and Michigan Section-MAA for their endorsement. The position statement below is the result of these efforts. The MCTM Executive Board is considering it at its March meeting.

Position Statement on the Fourth Year of High School Mathematics

The fourth year of high school mathematics for college-intending students should extend the depth and breadth of their understandings in mathematics and prepare them for the mathematics needed for their respective college majors. Students should take calculus only if they have demonstrated a deep understanding of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and coordinate geometry. Their calculus course should be treated as a college-level calculus course that seriously prepares them for one of the College Board's Advanced Placement Examinations in calculus. Justification for supporting AP Calculus include the following facts: it is based on national standards with high quality assessment, it promotes high skill levels and high confidence in being successful in mathematics, and most all students who earn advanced placement credit in their college calculus sequence are successful in their college mathematics. Moreover, traditional calculus should not be seen as the "pinnacle" course in mathematics. Rather, many of the college-intending students taking a fourth year of high school mathematics are better served by course work alternative to the calculus that extends the depth and breadth of their understandings in areas such as discrete mathematics, data analysis and statistics, modeling, and the underpinnings of calculus. It is important that people who advise students about their fourth year of high school mathematics recognize that alternatives to the calculus are as valuable as calculus.

Tim Husband (SHU) and Roger Verhey (UM-Dearborn)

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