All summer it's been looming. Last week it was finally time to do something about it. I attended a training for new/newish AP teachers. And now, a collection of ideas that have resulted.
- Our instructor for the week knew what she was doing. A teacher of Calculus AB and BC for many years, and with a history of establishing successful AP programs from nothing. A task similar to what I have.
- The most beneficial aspect was the fact that our instructor has been an exam reader for a number of years and gave all sorts of insight on just how brief an appropriate mathematical justification can be, and how the AP exam is way easier than it looks.
- The AP Calculus community in Texas is full of all sorts of resources. The mathematics chair at the University of Houston started an effort to better support the AP communities in the state by starting Houston Area Calculus Teachers. It's a dual effort to support the needs of high school teachers and show college professors that yes, they are partly to blame for 50% failure rates.
- The AP Calculus community in Texas is full of rock stars in its own right. It shows you how impossible it is to find every quality teacher out there. You would think the likes of TMC and the MTBoS movement would bring everyone out, but I would imagine that for every person attending TMC, there are 50 quality teachers who have never heard of it or any of the people who go.
- AP curriculum is mired in the traditional. While covering the entire Calculus AB curriculum in four days, our instructor offered hints of good strategies. She was not a "here are the rules, memorize them" type person. Lots of leading to have the students develop theories on their own. Simultaneously, there were a lot of over-copied handouts and discussions about nitpicking students on points and being stingy with re-assessment. We did two less traditional activities (some f and f prime matching, 3D solid construction) that BLEW EVERYONE AWAY as I sat there thinking "math class can be like this all the time you know."
- Running a Calculus class is going to have to be different than my recent approaches.
- The scope of the curriculum is really narrow when you think about it, and after scanning it many times it seems like it's organized well.
- Homework is going to be necessary, but not "1 hour a night" necessary.
- Students are going to use two notebooks I think, one for notes/practice/activities, and the second for official assignments.
- An AP modeled exam is going to happen every six weeks. It seemed pretty clear that free response questions are where you really learn what a student knows.
- Desmos and TI are going to have daily showdowns. TI skills are necessary for the minimal calculator sections of the exam, but Desmos will be there to make them modern mathematicians. Graph manipulation skills should be universal, regardless of interface.
- My SBG system needs to be altered significantly. Calculus doesn't seem to like being constrained into an easy to manage topic list (and the material only lasts until March). Given the nature of the AP Exam, I want flexibility to hold students accountable for material at any point in the year. Conceptual thinking is such a major focus too, and that needs to be assessed in a way that works well. I think I know what this looks like, but I haven't finished the prototype yet.
An exciting future is in store. Expect this course to be featured prominently here this year.