Monday, October 26, 2015

Why do we have to learn this?

Calculus, that is.

I'm teaching 'basic' Calculus and AP Calculus this year, both for the first time.  My AP kids have been great and very easy - they love procedures, get things memorized, and generally do well on everything.  They ask good, specific questions and they help each other.

My regular calculus kids have been a struggle.  They had a not-so-great year in Pre-Calculus last year, with a teacher who was new to the school and new to the level of students and new to the material.  They did not learn a lot.  That's ok.  I'm willing to work with that.  Honestly, I think Pre-Calculus should only be a quarter or semester only, and we should not beat kids over the head so much with rational functions.

My problem with this class has been their attitude.  I have a 'change your words - change your mindset' bulletin board in the room that my students are quick to point out to each other, but their attitudes are not changing.  Everything is so hard, my examples are so hard, and then my examples were too easy and the homework is so hard.  They actually do ok on tests and quizzes, because they can learn the material.  But class is a struggle.  It really tests my patience.

These 28 seniors will probably all go to college next year, and most are anticipating needing some form of calculus for their major.  I studied Engineering and I worked as an engineer.  So at some point, they will realize that 'because you use it in Engineering and Sciences and Business' is not technically true.  But right now, related rates and implicit differentiation is new and therefore confusing, and they don't want to learn it.

So, my response to 'Why do we have to learn this.'
1) You don't.  It's not an 'everyday' type of math.  You can get through life and be entirely successful without it.
2) Studying calculus helps you practice abstract reasoning.  Beyond being used in traditional STEM fields, this is of utmost importance to lawyers, communications majors, journalists, teachers, and EVERY PROFESSION I CAN THINK OF.
3) Yes, it may be needed for you to earn your desired post-secondary degree.  Perhaps you will even use it in your future career, if you are one of the lucky ones. (And you choose a theoretical career)
4) You can see the beauty of math and by extension appreciate the beauty of our world.
5) By taking calculus in high school, you see wide-ranging applications which may spark an interest.

Maybe I'll make this into a poster.  Then when someone asks I can just point to it. 

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