Life After Algebra II

As the school year speeds by, rising seniors at Fairfax High are already meeting with their teachers and guidance counselors to decide which classes they should take next year. Up until this point, the math sequence is spelled out -- Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II. After this point, there are plenty of options.

Here are the math classes students in a non-honors Algebra II class can choose from:

Trigonometry (Semester Course)
Probability and Statistics (Semester Course)
Discrete Math (Semester Course)
Pre Calculus with Trigonometry
AP Statistics
AP Computer Science

If they are not pursuing an advanced diploma, they can also choose to take no math class their senior year. That's an option a few students I talked to this week planned to take. Others were aiming for pre-calculus, which will put them on track to take Calculus in college. Others were talking about a combination of the semester-long courses.

When I was a senior in high school, I took a course called Functions, Statistics and Trigonometry. I think it was a watered-down version of pre-Calculus. And at my private school, there were only about four students who were not taking a tougher Pre-Calc class or higher. I remember sitting around a table spending a lot of time talking about ancient history, which my math teacher also taught.

If I'd had the option, AP Statistics probably would have been a good choice for me because I was about to begin a college degree in social sciences and because it would help with the work I do now.

Do you remember what kind of math you studied your senior year -- if any? What would you have taken if you knew then what you know now?

By Michael Alison Chandler  |  February 18, 2009; 4:00 PM ET  | Category:  Class Time
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AP Calc. A statistics course would have been interesting, particularly at the AP level. By the way, pre-calc is sort of a misnomer, at least in my experience. It dealt more with conic sections, sort of an advanced geometry/trig course, than with anything that was a foundation for calculus. But any math is good math, I always say!

On a just barely related note: If anybody's a fan of the Big Bang Theory (the TV show about nerds on CBS, not the origin of the universe), there was a great exchange last week between two of the characters - one asks his roommates' mom what the odds are that two such intelligent people would wind up together. She replies, "Is that a rhetorical question, or would you like to do the math?" Which prompts, "I want to do the math!"

Posted by: tomsing | February 19, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

AP Calculus. Back then we had a track in school called College Prep. If you were on that you took Pre-calc and AP Calculus as a senior.

Posted by: ggartner | February 20, 2009 5:46 AM | Report abuse

My school required all students to take 4 years of math.

Roughly 1/3 of my graduating class took some form of calculus senior year. About half the kids who had taken Honors Pre-Calculus in 11th took Honors Calculus (which was billed as "AP equivalent") and the other half took regular Calculus.

Most of the rest enrolled in regular Pre-Calculus. Maybe 10% were in the lowest track and had taken Algebra A & B, which spread the Algebra I material out over 9th and 10th. They took Algebra II in 12th.

Statistics was offered as an elective, but students were required to be concurrently enrolled in either Calculus or Pre-Calculus.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | February 20, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I took precalculus and AP calculus junior and senior year. I'm glad I did--I placed out of calculus in college, where it's much more difficult and the onus of figuring it out is much more on the student than on the teacher. Of course, now I'm an English major, but I don't view the math classes and advanced physics I took in high school as a waste of time.

Posted by: alexwmerritt | February 22, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

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