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The Common Core prepares students for AP Calculus and other advanced math – David Bressoud, Mathematical Association of America

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In this blog post, David Bressoud, former president of the Mathematical Association of America says, “There is no conflict between AP Calculus and the Common Core. Rather, there is an expectation that if the Common Core is faithfully implemented, then students will be better prepared when they get to AP Calculus and the courses that follow it.”I

n place of the political back-and-forth you get about Common Core math, Dr. Bressoud treats the question as a serious educational issue.  Here are some highlights:

I and others have expressed [concerns] about the headlong rush to calculus in high school (see, in particular, MAA/NCTM Joint Position on Calculus). As I pointed out in last month’s column (FDWK+B, May, 2014), almost 700,000 students begin the study of calculus while in high school each year….

The problem for many students who enter [college] with the aspiration of a STEM degree is inadequate proficiency at the level of precalculus: facility with algebra; understanding of trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions; and comprehension of the varied and interconnected ways of viewing functions. Packer speaks of slowing down the progressions through mathematics. …Much of the impetus for the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics comes from the recognition that there are clear benchmarks consisting of skills and understandings that must be mastered before students are ready to move on to the next level of abstraction and sophistication. Failure to achieve those benchmarks at the appropriate point in a student’s mathematical development risks seriously handicapping future mathematical achievement.

The Common Core was designed as a common core, a set of expectations we intend for all students. There is an intentional gap between where the Common Core in Mathematics ends and where mathematics at the level of calculus begins. …Completing the Common Core does not mean one is ready for the study of AP Calculus or any other calculus. It means one is ready for a number of options that include AP Statistics, AP Computer Science, or a Precalculus class.

There is no conflict between AP Calculus and the Common Core. Rather, there is an expectation that if the Common Core is faithfully implemented, then students will be better prepared when they get to AP Calculus and the courses that follow it.


6 Comments

  1. The problem with ‘common core” is that it is a philosophy that is inconsistent with what a teacher is trained to do. It is predicated on the teachers responsibility, not the schools, not the parents, not the chidden. Teachers are now judged on how proficient the bottom 30% become regardless of lack of ability, work habits, attitude, or doing their homework. A good example is my nephew a PHD theoretical physics teacher whose contract was not approved after teaching at a so called “Magnet school in New Jersey” He told me the top 30% were highly motivated successful students who did great. But the school board was unhappy with the result of the bottom 30% who disrupted his classes most of the time and cared less. There are going to be a lot of teachers who will fear this kind of result and concentrate their effort to this bottom 30 % at the expense of the others. But this is the philosophy of the Common Core and its resulting watering down of education to close the gap.
    Carrying this scenario forward you have everyone passing and graduating and be called “college ready” The universities will accept more and more of these people and guess what? More and more will be awarded a graduation certificate. Is this what motivated parents and children want? You can bet this is what the teachers Unions and the Federal and State governments want. This is how you get elected. However this is not what a lot of teachers want.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      The unions and government at every level are allied in their effort to make our children fail. This is a good summary of what we hear consistently from the opponents of public education and the Common Core.

  2. Paul Chessen says:

    “There is no conflict between AP Calculus and the Common Core. Rather, there is an expectation that if the Common Core is faithfully implemented, then students will be better prepared when they get to AP Calculus and the courses that follow it.”

    This statement only makes sense if the author expects students to take an additional year of high school or perhaps take AP Calculus in the summer following high school graduation but preceeding college. As far as I know AP Calculus is not offered for credit by any colleges. The Common Core timeline doesn’t get students who follow it faithfully to AP Calculus while still in high school.

  3. Paul Chessen says:

    But how many public school districts will implement the additional material from the math standards appendix. That will require additional expense.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      The appendix is not primarily “additional material.” It’s guidance in different pathways for using the standards. Look at page 80 et seq. Every CCSS district that I know of offers algebra in the 8th grade (and to the few younger students ready for it) and pre-calc and calc in high school. The NH Math Teachers assn. agrees that the standards support that. Just just no point to asserting that proper college prep is inconsistent with the standards.

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