No other educational event in the past two decades including no child left behind and the most recent June SAT debacle has caused more turmoil to students, teachers, and parents than implementation of Common Core Standards. Overall, it seems like everyone is in favor of upping learning standards so our children rank better globally in math, however nearly everyone disagrees about how the bar should be raised. It has become a topic so large that 2016 presidential candidates are discussing it.
Algebra I has been a Common Core class since the 2014 school year, with the June 2015 test being the most abrasive so far. Students have left testing facilities crying, and inflammatory comments are everywhere on the internet. Because administration knows adopting these new standards will be a turbulent experience, the grade required to pass is unusually low and sometimes within the realm of guessing. (As though we needed any more reason to get upset) There are enough horror stories available to make even the most reasonable person upset.
The course is stranger than it used to be. Though the bread and butter topics are still linear and quadratic functions, the students are now required to understand more fully the different components of a function, what they mean, and how they work. For example, before common core, a student needed to be able to identify the y-intercept of a linear function. Now, the linear function will represent something like cost of running a business as a function of how many employees you hire, and they will need to understand not only what the y-intercept is, but that it represents the cost of running the business without hiring any employees. This is actually pretty interesting stuff, but it doesn’t make learning it any easier.
Some New York schools will choose to implement Common Core curriculum for Algebra II / Trig this year, and some won’t. With that being said, Algebra II / Trig has been taught in the past with the goal of introducing students to more complex Trigonometry involving the use of identities, and such laws such as the law of sines and the law of cosines. It also classically deals with geometric and arithmetic sequences, as well as the binomial expansion theorem and normal distributions.
If your student is taking Algebra II this year in a school where Common Core was implemented for Algebra I, then they will most likely be subject to the Common Core curriculum. There is little documentation of materials outside of vague curriculum maps which doesn’t give any decent evaluation of what type of questions your student will be expected to answer this year. Add this to the fact that some students take this course during their junior year to make a particularly volatile mix.
Precalculus is a course designed to get your student familiar with all of the math necessary to begin learning Calculus. Specifically, the course is designed around limits, trigonometry and the unit circle, rational functions, exponential and logarithmic properties and functions, as well as the definition of a derivative and some common applications. This course is more difficult than Algebra II/Trigonometry, and is the last math course required by many high schools.
AP Calculus is a very worthy subject, whether your student is looking to take AB or BC. Calc AB deals with all of the most essential parts of Calculus such as a firm understanding of derivatives, integrals, and their common applications. I would strongly recommend taking Calculus AB if your student thinks that majoring in STEM is in their future. Calculus BC is, in my opinion, one of the toughest courses offered on a high school level. Not only does it cover all of the material in Calc AB, but it also goes further into depth about vector math, polar and spherical coordinates, more complicated integration techniques and calculations of volume integrals, arc length of polar curves, and parametric equations. If your student is very serious about pursuing STEM, Calculus BC may be advisable. I personally really enjoy tutoring Calculus, as most of my degree in Mathematics was earned with Calculus courses.
As with all AP courses, if your student scores a 4 or 5 on the AP exam in May, (some) colleges will accept their test grade as college credit in lieu of taking the course again as an undergraduate. This enables your student to take more advanced courses, fewer courses, or possibly graduate earlier.
Many students struggle with Geometry, even those students who have typically excelled in their math courses. This is caused by a number of problems. Firstly, students might not have confidence in their ability to accurately draw geometric figures accurately, or may draw them too small. Secondly, there is a large amount of vocabulary words in geometry which differentiates it from previous math courses. Finally, and perhaps most infamously, geometry requires students to do “proofs” where they need to use logical argument via the use of axioms, properties of equality, and theorems. Unlike their previous courses, students aren't given a specific set of step by step directions to solve these problems. Each proof is unique and some can be quite challenging.
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I highly recommend Daniel Starling as a tutor. My daughter was in a tough spot when she first starting to work with Daniel. She was midway through her Junior year in Hastings High school, and she was beginning her college search in earnest. While she felt able to distinguish herself for leadership positions at the school and athletically, all while taking several AP classes, her grades were average for Hastings and she had done poorly on the SAT and ACTs, despite having taken a prep course. In addition, she struggled to keep up with Pre-Calculus. She wanted to go to a school with an athletic driven campus life, but these were exactly the schools that other students were applying to to be their safeties, and her odds of getting in to any of them didn’t seem very promising given her grades and standardized test scores. Since then, Mr. Starling and my daughter have been working together for an hour each week. He has done a great job in that limited time to help my daughter not just stay on top of her Pre-Calculus course, but also dramatically increase her ACT scores in all five sections of the test. Daniel quickly established a good rapport with my daughter and I’ve seen him use humor to keep her engaged, patience and other approaches to solving a problem to make sure a lesson is understood. He has helped her prioritize her schoolwork, improve her study habits and be more strategic about how she takes standardized tests. Mr. Starling has always been reliable, upbeat and conscientious. After working together for several months, my daughter did well retaking the ACT, and while she’s still waiting to hear from several schools, she has already been accepted to 5 of the 7 school that we’ve heard from including one of her safeties, one of her targets and one of her reach schools. My daughter and I are enormously grateful for Daniel's help in helping her achieve those goals. He has been invaluable.