Math course names are inconsistent at East


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Course names on East students’ transcripts do not accurately reflect their work.

It’s no secret the academic intensity at East surpasses that of most high schools. This rigor manifests in obvious ways: piles of homework, numerous AP courses, and countless sleepless nights. Students in this environment can take advantage of the immense opportunities that come with these resources. The math department particularly acts as a testament to the hard work and complexity of thought within East’s halls. Students have the opportunity to tackle high-level mathematical concepts from early grades. These students deserve their work to be accurately reflected on their transcripts. 

Currently, an inconsistency exists in the math course names for students on the honors track. Despite being titled Functions Honors, for example, students should expect to learn Pre-calculus material and are even given a Pre-calculus textbook. Similarly, Pre-Calc Honors students are taught Calculus and reference a Calculus textbook throughout the course. 

“Those books are the school district’s best attempt to find something that would touch the kind of topics that we’re doing,” said Pre-Calc H teacher Jeff Killion. “I know some districts have an AB and then a BC [Calculus], but this district doesn’t do that.”

To account for the absence of Calculus AB, the Pre-Calc H course at East combines Pre-calculus and Calculus concepts, thus creating a domino effect on all math courses on the Honors track. This inconsistency can come as a surprise to new students in the district. 

“Sometimes it is an issue. In general, a student from another high school might say that they are taking honors level algebra, but then when they come here they realize our curriculum moved a lot faster and maybe more in-depth than what they were used to,” said Guidance Counselor Laurie Grossman.

The main problem with this becomes evident when the college application process starts. Seniors sending their high school transcripts to potential schools are not given the proper credit they deserve. The math courses they take are often more complex than their title indicates, but colleges have no way of knowing this. 

“Somebody who had no idea what the curriculum was is going to look at that and say ‘She took Pre-calculus,’” said Grossman. “And if the decision wasn’t to move onto AP Calculus BC, it might look like the student never had calculus, even though they did in Pre-calculus.” 

Though seemingly inconsequential, this puts undue pressure on students to take an additional Calculus course, just to receive credit for the Calculus they already did in Pre-Calc H. Considering the extensive workload and complexity of these courses, a simple acknowledgment of the material actually being taught does not seem like too high of a request. 

Some students are also not aware of the inconsistency between course names and course material until they are in the class. This problem was exacerbated due to COVID-19, with more students than usual deciding AP Calculus was not the best path for them. 

“[Instead,] they asked if they could just move to Calculus A. But the problem is, what they did in Pre-calculus H is what they would do in Calculus A, so they’d just be repeating the same material again,” said Grossman. 

The inconsistency between course names and course content is a problem at East — but is a problem that can be easily fixed. To solve this, a simple adjustment of course names is all that is needed. Or, even better, the addition of a Calculus AB and BC course for students to choose from. As of now, however, there are talks of finding a solution.

“The district is looking into the naming of the courses,” said Killion. “One idea is to call Pre-calc Honors, ‘Functions with Limits’…It’s supposed to be a name that would give more idea to how you’re doing Pre-Calc and you’re doing some Calculus — not just Pre-calculus.”

This is a meaningful step in the conversation regarding course names. In general, there is a lot to appreciate about the math department at East, and students ought to recognize the privilege that comes with access to high-level courses. And yet, as with anything, there is always room for improvement; simple change can drastically make the experience for students better as a whole.