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  • Maia Riggs

New AP Precalculus Course “Makes No Sense,” Teachers and Professors Say

Mr. Koplowitz teaching a precalculus class Feb. 27 / Credits: David Sipos

The College Board last year announced a new AP Precalculus course, which it says will “prepare a more diverse set of students to succeed in higher-level math and reach college graduation.” But whether there can really be a “college-level” precalculus class is far from clear.

Walls will not be implementing the class in the near future, according to Assistant Principal LaToya Grant. “Our math teachers looked at the curriculum and it’s really just a review of what we already do in this school, so it seemed repetitive and not beneficial for students,” Ms. Grant said.

Jesse Koplowitz, who teaches Algebra II and precalculus at Walls, said that he does not think this class would be valuable to students. Based on his experience teaching the class, a fixed curriculum for precalculus may harm the overall benefit of it. “Precalculus to me is not necessarily about getting kids ready for AP Calculus,” Mr. Koplowitz said.

There is no standard precalculus content an AP exam could test, according to Mr. Koplowitz, because schools have different curriculums based on what their students need to be ready for calculus. “The thing I’m trying to get out of precalculus is I want students to think more mathematically,” Mr. Koplowitz said.

“There’s no one precalculus, there’s no standards for it.”

Kristin Kelly, the Walls AP Calculus AB and BC teacher, also struggled to see the value of the class. “I don’t even know what a college-level precalculus class would look like,” she said.

Additionally, the timeframe for this class would be cut down, as teachers would have to squeeze the curriculum in by the AP test in May, as opposed to having the entire year to cover the content.

This further inhibits the flexibility of the course, meaning less time to tailor the course to the students. “If it turns out people don’t remember as well how to factor quadratics they can stop and do that type of stuff,” Ms. Kelly said. “An AP curriculum doesn’t lend itself to giving a lot of time because you feel this constraint.”

Ms. Kelly and Mr. Koplowitz both thought the added pressure of another AP course might be harmful for students. “Our kids are already really overloaded with AP stuff, I don’t know that another AP is going to add a lot of benefit in light of the amount of stress I think it would cause,” said Mr. Koplowitz.

On top of all of this, AP courses are supposed to be college-level. Joseph Bonin, a professor of mathematics at George Washington University, said “although some universities offer it, precalculus is high-school-level material, not university-level material, and so offering AP credit for it makes no sense.”

His colleague Frank Baginski, the chair of the GW mathematics department, agreed, saying the university would not offer credit for a subject that “is not university-level material.” GW does not currently offer a standalone precalculus course, according to its course catalog.

Though the idea of avoiding math classes in college may appeal to students, there is no guarantee that the credits will actually transfer at most schools. “To be honest, a lot of colleges don’t take the credits,” said Crystal Pace, the class of 2025 counselor.


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