First of all: once again, I'm sorry to be MIA -- I'm looking forward to becoming a regular on my own blog some time again soon.
Second: help! help!
C's second calculus test came back today: a disappointment, and a Bad Sign. And I am fresh out of enthusiasm for dealing with another year of high school math. Meaning: I am fresh out of enthusiasm for dealing with high school math teaching and high school math grading and high school math hiring of high school math tutors to remediate high school math grading and high school non-learning of high school math and on and on and on and then further on and on some more.
Also: calculus tutors are few and far between. I found only one last year, and the lone session he had with C. didn't help. Other parents have told me they couldn't find calculus tutors, either, and for years I've been hearing things like: "My son did well in BC Calculus. We were lucky because his father can teach it." As I recall, the mom who told me her husband could re-teach BC Calculus at home also told me that her husband's first cousin was an economist who had won the Nobel Prize. I'm pretty sure I'm not making that up.
Nobody in this house can teach calculus. I haven't even finished taking algebra 2, and Ed has forgotten the calculus courses he took in high school and college and doesn't care to revisit them.
So here we are.
Also - and this is a repeat - last year's math class was a total, effing disaster. The teacher was and is seriously ill but is still teaching, and the kids were and are dropping like flies. A huge percentage of last year's AP Calculus AB students got 1s on the AP test. Ones. And when I say "huge percentage," I mean eighty-five or ninety percent: the guy broke the bell curve. This was the teacher C. had for pre-calc, so C. is bringing to this year's calculus course an epic level of non-preparedness.
The teacher C. has this year is supposed to be fantastic and in fact told us he was fantastic on Back to School Night (he actually said: "I am it," which was exhilarating at the time), but if the grades are not great then the learning is not great, either. Fantastic is as fantastic does.
Ed is thinking we should just transfer C. to AP Stat (or maybe it wouldn't even be AP Stat - maybe just "Stat Honors," a class in which, according to C., students recently took a test on bar charts after completing a bar chart project) and be done with it.
That's pretty much how I feel, too, but it leaves the problem of algebra 2 and calculus, neither of which C. will have learned in high school -- and neither of which I want him taking in college since he'll likely be attending a school with kids who are a lot better than he is in math. At this point it is crystal clear to me that there is no reason on Earth to take a math course in college, pay for it, get a bad grade in it, and not learn any math. And I'm thinking the same principle holds true for high school. Why spend a single second of your (child's) life in a non-required math course so he can not learn math?
Last data point: C. did fine on the first test in the class and thought he did well on this test, too. He did great on the diagnostic test going in, and is doing well in physics. His mistakes on this test appear to be mostly "careless errors" (I have a whole new take on the nature of careless error thanks to the SAT) and a failure to follow correct notation, etc. In short, he appears to understand the material, not that I would know.
Of course, if that's the case then he needs more practice - but how do we swing that? The teacher doesn't seem to use a textbook, and I'm not going to be able to scrounge useful practice sets this go-round as I did for the 3 years when C. was in middle school.
(Could I talk to the teacher? Why, yes indeed I could talk to the teacher. But seeing as how talking to a math teacher has yielded exactly zero results over lo these many years, talking to the teacher wasn't my first impulse. Writing a help desk post was my first impulse.)
We had a great, great precalculus tutor last spring at the very end of the school year; if we'd hired him at the beginning of last year, C. might have learned pre-calculus. We could hire him again (I assume) and decree that this year C is actually going to learn pre-calculus, which means we could pay tuition for C. to study bar charts at his Jesuit high school and pay tutoring fees for him to study pre-calculus here at home --- who says Americans have to de-leverage?! If you've got kids in school and you want them to learn math, deleveraging is not for you!
What else is out there?
He could enroll in a community college precalculus course -- when?
Now? While he's in high school? (While he's in high school commuting 15 miles there and back every day?)
Then take calculus over the summer?
Another question: are there solid precalculus and calculus courses online? I took all of the ALEKS geometry course and part of the ALEKS Algebra 1 course, and as much as I want to like ALEKS, as much as I do like the tone and feel of the site, I don't think ALEKS replaces a good teacher or a good textbook. But do others out there think that might be the way to go?
What about online schools and colleges? I know there are universities that offer online math courses that kids take when they've been expelled or can't physically attend their local schools for some reason. Is that a possibility? Any recommendations?
And while we're on the subject, can anyone out there explain to me how in this country does a smart student with no discernible learning, attentional, motivational, or emotional difficulties whose talents and interests lie in history/social science actually learn some damn math?
What does it take?