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NCTM: re: Calculus in high school
Posted:
Feb 21, 1995 1:35 PM


The question of acceleration to calculus in high school will exist whether you are in a Standardsoriented or traditional program. For some years I taught in a community college program in which we went onto the high school campus and taught a college credit course (the program still operates.) It was a very cooperative venture in that the high schools used our readiness test as a major factor in placing students in the course  when the schools were still in a growth mode. This is in a large urban district  12002000 students/hs  with a high educational level. As times changed many high schools "hung on" to the course as a status symbol while eliminating all other senior level college prep courses for those who had started algebra in grade 8. In order to maintain a credit level course we conducted student followup studies on occassion to see (1) how many students continued to the next calculus course vs. repeating at the university, (2) how did our grading compare to grades received by students that did continue, (3) how did students follow our advice regarding the next math course they should take? These studies helped keep a true transferlevel course and when the inevitable confrontation occurred with the administrator who was sure that our course/grading/content was too much for high school students
In my current role as placement director for a selective public university (average SAT > 1000) I encounter the placement problems for students with calculus in high school. Several findings of formal studies at University of CA, San Diego: (1) Students with a hs "calculus" course who did not take the AP test (or get college credit) do no better in a beginning calculus class than 'noncalculus' students. This is true in both the hard & soft calculus; (2) Students with a 4 or 5 on the AP (AB or BC) do significantly better than the "native students" in the appropriate courses; (3) Students with a 3 (AB or BC) are unpredictable for placement  we leave it up to them to start over or accelerate; (4) Students with a 1 or 2 do significantly poorer than noncalculus students in the beginning course (although the numbers are very small); (5) Noncalculus students with 4 years of college preparatory math (algebra through precalculus) do fine in our calculus courses. We also feel that a disproportionate number of students with good AP scores do not take any more mathematics  yet these are supposedly our most talented math students. These studies have been done when we were using a traditional calculus content and approach and while we have been moving in the direction of calculus reform  results were equivalent.
I am interested in students with the IB Higher Level exam in math fared in college. I have the syllabus and an exam  they are truly high level  but what does the score really mean? A local teacher said that, in her experience, a 5 meant 'soso', a 6 meant 'very good', and a 7 meant 'tends to walk on water and leap over tall buildings'. As we begin to receive these students I would like to be able to advise them appropriately.
Sorry to carry on so but I am very interested in
                                        Richard Pilgrim Director of Mathematics Testing and Placement Site Director: California Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project University of California, San Diego email: rpilgrim@ucsd.edu Voice: (619) 5343298 Fax: (619) 5341011                                        



