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The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

CollegeBoard Rolls Out New AP Precalculus Course

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Image credits: Creative Commons

Advanced Placement (AP) classes, college-level courses that are approved and audited by College Board and delivered to high schoolers, provide students opportunities to earn college credits. Currently, there are a total of 38 AP courses available, which vary based on each school subject. Until recently, the well-known AP courses in the math curriculum were AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, and AP Statistics. However, the College Board recently announced that they will be offering a new AP Precalculus course starting in the 2023-24 school year. 

 

What Is AP Precalculus? 

According to the College Board, this course was initially introduced to guide students who had challenges to fulfill four years of math, often resulting in struggles with college math. Specifically, the College Board pointed out the issue that some schools did not offer enough math courses for their students, and thus students had to take a huge jump from Algebra II or Geometry to AP Calculus. In other cases, schools offered a Precalculus Honors course but without an opportunity to provide college credit. 

For instance, according to Edweek, two in five minority students (Black and Latino) stated their intentions to go to college with a major in STEM. However, only 3% of those students were enrolled in AP STEM courses. This can oftentimes pose a burden for such students later in college, as they miss out on credits to save them time and money. The College Board believes that the AP Precalculus course will ultimately benefit these minority students by providing more courses and content that is crucial for STEM majors in college, such as physics, biology, and data science.

 

General Overview of Its Curriculum

To begin, what is really considered a true precalculus class? There is no definite answer; different schools identify the course in different ways. Some schools have the mission of reinforcing basic algebra skills; others dive deep into advanced concepts (such as functions and manipulations) early on in the school year. Many schools also have several prerequisites that students need to fulfill before proceeding to precalculus.

Unlike most high schools or secondary school institutions, the College Board’s mission takes a different approach to developing its own precalculus course. Instead of creating the new course as a traditional, rigorous AP class, the College Board decided to attempt to standardize its precalculus course so it only contains the essential concepts that are imperative for students to know for more advanced math. To summarize, the course will primarily focus on functions, and include modeling with functions, multiple representations of functions, and functions with two variables or manipulations, according to Calc Medic. 

 

Opinions from Teachers

Mrs. Kelly Toale, one of the math teachers at Tenafly High School, said the course might not be the best fit for Tenafly. “For students who take the PITCH (Precalculus & Intro to Calculus Honors) course at Tenafly, they will ultimately end up in an AP Calculus course, so it’s not totally necessary for Tenafly students,” she said. “The PITCH curriculum is very similar to the AP Precalculus curriculum, so I think it serves the same purpose.” Toale also expressed other concerns. “For students who would take AP Precalculus at Tenafly instead of PITCH, they would have to take an AP test and cover their curriculum by March, whereas PITCH students would finish the same curriculum by April.” 

Tenafly High School’s Math Supervisor, Ms. Amelia Bowers, had similar ideas thoughts on the course. Bowers explained how AP Precalculus could be a helpful and beneficial course in high schools where most AP math courses are not offered. “It would be a bit repetitive if we added AP Precalculus into our curriculum when there is already another course [PITCH], being just as good of a class,” she said.

Bowers also said that after the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of students have been performing well in AP math courses and on the corresponding AP exams, so there is really no immediate need for implementing the AP Precalculus course at the moment. However, if there is a pressing need to institute the course at Tenafly, the math department will definitely consider the change.

Alongside these views from teachers at Tenafly High School, there are many various viewpoints from teachers around the country. One angle comes from David Bressoud, a professor at Macalester College and Director of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, who certainly didn’t hold back on his opinion about the course. “Generally speaking, it is a terrible course,” he said on mathvalues.org, “a collection of facts and procedures, most of which students have seen before but not mastered, now coming at them much faster. There is little cohesiveness to the course.” 

Bressoud clearly has a load of criticism to offer for the course but for an understandable reason. Precalculus is meant to be a subject that eases students with the prerequisite skills in order to be successful in the rigor of calculus. With that being said, if precalculus is notched up to a very high rigor, students will struggle, which  will likely lead to being underprepared for calculus.

 

The AP Precalculus course seems to be an innovative course that will benefit students in the years to come. Although it is unsure whether or not the course will be added at Tenafly High School, the new course will likely be implemented in many schools and benefit students who need to fulfill four years of math to prepare for college. 

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About the Contributors
JaeHa (Justin) Kim, Senior Staff Writer
JaeHa (Justin) Kim ('26) is excited to be a Senior Staff Writer for The Echo. He enjoys covering unique stories that some people may not know about and hopes that his writing can provide new knowledge and awareness. In his free time, he enjoys running, listening to music, and spending time with his family.
Avyay Manoj, Guest Writer
Avyay Manoj ('26) enjoys programming in his free time. He also plays tennis and soccer with his friends and is an avid reader.