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Help for first year
Posted:
Jun 7, 1998 8:28 PM


This message is for the teacher who asked for some hints for preparing for teaching the AP for the first time. Here are some hints gleaned from my first year (this past one).
Use the calculator as a main tool, not an adjunct.
Since the AP exam is very calculator intensive, the use of the calculator should be taught from the beginning. Last year, I taught the course much as I would a regular college calculus course with use of the calculator thrown in almost as an aside. I should have done a lot more with the calculator and with recognizing when it should be used. If the calculator could be introduced in the precalc course, it would save some time in the calc course.
Have realistic expectations.
While "strive for five" has a nice motivational ring to it, be realistic about what you and your students can do. You will be judged by the numbers you deliver (either overtly or covertly). Find out what administration expects and make sure that those expectations match yours.
Plan for review.
I know that this suggestion has been made before. I used 6 weeks for review (5 preplanned and 1 "you tell me what you don't know"). That length of time seemed good. I shortchanged some topics during the regular time. The digestion time helped. My students had a hard time with solids of revolution the first time, but seemed to get it during the review.
Give a mock AP.
My school has a January exam period. I have a 3+ hour block so I make an AP exam based on what has been covered. The structure is the same as the AP. It gives the students an idea about what to expect in May.
Know when to justify.
Most students get used to the unstated assumption of "show all work". Make sure students know what work has to be shown on the Free Response and what work doesn't. Structure some of your exams and quizzes with that distinction in mind.
Expect senioritis.
Many of your students will know in February or March where they are going to college. The "conditional on satisfactory performance in your last quarter" warning will be only a hollow threat. Proms will be coming. So when warm weather hits just when the crunch comes, even your best students will "take a break". You will now start to earn your pay. I find group quizzes (groups of three or four randomly chosen students per group) based on free response type questions work well at this time. I also start at that time the "warm ups". The beginning of each class, the students are standing. I go to each student and ask a simple question (e.g. the derivative of ln(5x), sin(100pi/3)). Then we get on to the day's review. When student motivation is low, try new things.
Read this list every day.
I have found this list invaluable. It is like an extended conference without the boring presentations. While the presentations are nice, the best tips come in casual conversation with other participants. This list is those casual conversations all year long. I thank all who have given hints this past year and all who tolerated my rants about 1998 Free Response 2a.
Michael Magnuson Nardin Academy Canisius College Buffalo, NY



