kitchen table math, the sequel: Rich Beveridge on pre-calculus

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rich Beveridge on pre-calculus

Rich Beveridge writes:
I suppose that my experience with Pre-Calculus curriculum began in Steve Patterson’s Pre-Calculus class at Briarcliff High School in the 1981-82 school year. Pre-Calculus always stuck out in my mind because it was the only math course that was completely locally developed. Algebra I, II, and Geometry all had Regents exams and the Calculus course was AP Calculus.

I remember studying Conic Sections, Polynomial Long Division and Synthetic Division, the Rational Roots Theorem (and its proof), elementary Discrete Math (permutations, combinations and binomial probability), Polar Coordinate graphing and hand calculating Riemann Sums at the end of the year. I took the College Board Math Achievement Test II (now the SAT Subject Test Math II) after completing the Pre-Calculus course so I recently looked at some current sample questions and saw these same topics – Analytic Geometry, Permutations & Combinations, Synthetic Division, Functions, Sequences & Series.

During the 1999-2000 school year, I taught Pre-Calculus at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Maine. The school was using the Chicago Series text Functions, Statistics and Trigonometry for their Pre-Calculus course. I know that some teachers like the Chicago Series and FST in particular, but I didn’t really get much use out of the textbook, and began to supplement. Standard textbooks can be supplemented quite easily because the order and difficulty level of the topics is often similar. I found that the Chicago Series was very difficult to supplement and just began to create separate materials for the students. I collected these assignments in a binder and showed this to the University of Maine math department when I was interviewing for an adjunct position the following year (yeah - I didn’t stay at MCI very long – they were sticklers for using the approved textbook). I taught as an adjunct at UMaine for two years before beginning their MA program in Math.
I'm hoping Rich will write more posts for us.


SteveH said...

MCI in Pittsfield does not show a Pre-Calculus class now. They show an Advanced Math and a half-credit Trigonometry class. They also offer AP calculus AB and BC classes, but it does look like some of their math class choices use the Chicago Series. My impression is that students have to be careful about which courses they take depending on what they want to do in college. That's kind of normal everywhere. They talk about this on their web site.

What I did think was interesting about MCI was that they promote themselves to overseas students. Their first menu choice under Admissions is "How to Obtain a Student Visa". I keep thinking that college demand (and costs) will peak at some time. Now, I'm not so sure. It seems that MCI is part of a pipeline to get foreign students ready for US colleges. Education in the US appears to be a booming export($39,900 for a residential student at MCI). I don't see any end in sight. Some foreign colleges might improve over time, but I don't see that having a great effect.

Rich Beveridge said...

There are a few schools in Maine that were historically private schools, but at some point signed contracts with the local school district to serve the local students as well.

The MCI students when I was there were about 80% local students with the rest being Asian boarding students looking to prep for US universities and post-grad basketball players looking to get their grades up and/or get an extra year of playing before going to the college level.

It looks like they've split off the statistics portion of the FST course and kept the Pre-Calc w/trig along with the half credit trig.

The Chicago Series and Everyday Math had a pretty firm grip on many school districts in Maine when I was there (1998-2004) for some reason. My issue with the Chicago books was mainly that the lack of practice exercises meant I had to supplement, but their "spiral content" and non-traditional order of presentation made it very difficult. Most of the books I would have drawn from covered the material in a different order and so there were prerequisite topics that the Chicago text hadn't covered yet - this is what led me to just abandon the Chicago text.