Sophomores in precalculus: harmful or helpful?


Andrew Tapp

Andrew Tapp, Reporter

As 5th graders are first entering middle school, some are walking right into prealgebra from their elementary math courses. Those same students, such as myself, eventually have to take more advanced math courses, such as taking honors precalculus as a sophomore, which they are more than likely never going to use again.

Another one of these students is sophomore Alyssa Clark. Clark took prealgebra with Jerry Schubert at Southport Sixth Grade Academy and now is taking precalculus with Jack Williams. She plans to take AP calculus next year, but her chances of using it in her anticipated career path of psychology are very slim.

“It kind of stinks because if I retake the class, then that looks bad for college,” Clark said, “but I really don’t want to take the harder classes. I’m already busy enough as it is with my job and sports and I feel like taking a higher level class will just take more of my time.”

I personally have sat through precalculus for almost a year now. It has been a year of, at times, seeing my classmates and myself sometimes be reduced to tears because we are so stressed out by the class. The most depressing thing is that odds are I will never use anything I learned in that class ever again. Right now it is only hurting my GPA and adding extra stress in my life. I’ve done all I can to try to understand what is going on in the class, even so far as spending at least an hour every week with different teachers trying to gain at least some understanding. Granted through hard work and determination I have gotten my grade up from an F to a C+, but it’s still not good. Overall, I think class has been a waste of my time and effort.

However, Clark and other classmates aren’t the only ones that share my opinion. Math teacher Jack Williams also believes that, “…(teachers and parents) have done a disservice to some students by pushing them too far too quickly.”

Williams is afraid that by pushing students to take higher level classes so early in their academic career, some may have bypassed some very crucial number sense development. He says that’s why he sees some students top out when they get to a class like honors precalculus.
“I’ve got a lot of juniors that outperform sophomores in honors precalculus for a variety of reasons,” Williams said. “A, they didn’t jump into prealgebra right away, or maybe they did and retook a course to reinforce those basic skills. B, they’re just mentally more mature. I’m not talking about from a character aspect. I’m talking about just from an academic mental aspect. Sometimes you’re not ready to handle those rigorous courses when you’re 15 years old.”