Revamped Multivariable Calculus Offers College Experience


Multivariable Calculus teacher Douglas Lublin lectures students about vector operations. This year, Multivariable was revamped to look more like a college course that students would take in the future. Photo by Andrew Young.

Since its inception three years ago, Los Altos has offered Multivariable Calculus in fluctuating circumstances. When last year’s teacher Daniel Borklund left Los Altos, it seemed to many prospective students that Multivariable would not be offered this year.

“As far as I was concerned, I didn’t think we would even have a teacher when we got our schedules,”  senior Richard Wang said. “It’s just hard to find a teacher who teaches Multivariable and who teaches Multivariable well.”

Over the summer, however, Assistant Vice Principal Perla Pasallo contacted the Foothill College administration to see if any professor would be open to teaching the class at Los Altos. Foothill Professor Douglas Lublin offered to serve as the teacher and accepted the position in August.

“The Dean sent out an announcement just before [Los Altos’ school year] started that the school is trying to offer one more section of Multivariable Calculus,” Lublin said. “I was excited about this, so I jumped at the opportunity.”

The class began on September 26, the start of Foothill’s fall quarter. Since Multivariable Calculus is a second-year college math course, Lublin teaches the class as if he were teaching college sophomores. In fact, one member of the class is a college student enrolled at Foothill. Students learn about comprehensive explanations of theories and proofs rather than focusing on technique-based work found in many high school classes.

“It’s definitely a step up from even AP Calculus BC,” Richard said. “It’s a lot more in-depth in terms of the material compared to just learning calculus.”

Along with exposure to a course structured like a college math class, students will likely receive college credit, despite the class not being part of College Board’s AP program. This year, students will receive a Foothill transcript that can be used as transfer credit to public universities and some private universities.

“It’s as if they went to one college as freshman or sophomore and then transferred to another school,” Lublin said.

Lublin’s experience teaching the class at Foothill contrasts with last year, when Borklund had never taught the subject.

“One of the issues [last year] was that we had a first year high school teacher coming from a middle school [teaching] background [who] was thrown into a multivariable calculus environment,” senior Joey Hejna said. “So the difference is that this professor always knows what he’s talking about.”

Despite the benefits of having a college professor, students have difficulty contacting Lublin, as he stays at the Los Altos campus for only one period.

“If you have a lot of trouble on a certain concept, he isn’t a very accessible resource because you have to go to Foothill’s [campus],” junior Varun Sriram said.

The lack of schedule alignment between Foothill and Los Altos due to Foothill’s quarter system also limits the possibilities of the class. While Multivariable at Los Altos has historically been taught in tandem with Linear Algebra, Lublin will not have enough time to teach Linear Algebra. Students in the class will return to having a free period in place of the class at the end of Foothill’s spring quarter in March.

Lublin hopes to find a solution to this problem in coming years, and has even offered to start teaching at Los Altos before Foothill starts to provide more time. Regardless, he wishes to continue teaching Multivariable at Los Altos beyond this school year and add some stability to a class that has fluctuated for the last three years.

“It’s been great, and I love it,” Lublin said. “[If] Los Altos and Foothill after this year say it was a good experiment, then I think that it would be great to continue it and have it as an opportunity.”