The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The potential of AP Precalculus, College Board’s newest AP math course

Student-made Calculus posters, hung in Room 306
Ashley Tumacder
Student-made Calculus posters, hung in Room 306

In May 2022, when College Board announced the introduction of AP Precalculus, the same question was asked: Why should students receive AP college credit for a course usually taken in high school?

Precalculus is a math course that connects concepts from Geometry and Algebra with Trigonometry and other analytical math subjects to prepare students for Calculus. The offered Precalculus courses at Los Altos High School (LAHS) are Trigonometry/Math Analysis and Trigonometry/Math Analysis Honors, and most students can expect to take a Precalculus course by their senior year.

AP Precalculus debuted for high schoolers this school year, but there are currently no plans to implement AP Precalculus at LAHS.

“The courses for next year have not been completely set, but AP Precalculus has not been discussed or planned,” Mathematics Department Head Adam Anderson said.

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According to the AP Precalculus’s proposed framework, the course’s goal is to “better prepare students for college-level calculus” and make the flow of taking an AP Calculus course smoother for high school students. Considering AP Calculus BC’s intimidating reputation among students, AP Precalculus may have the potential to change that.

Having lower-level AP courses may be a good thing for getting students into AP classes earlier. The sooner we can get students used to AP expectations, the better the outcomes.

— AP Calculus BC teacher Jacob Sproule

“Having lower-level AP courses may be a good thing for getting students into AP classes earlier,” AP Calculus BC teacher Jacob Sproule said. “The sooner we can get students used to AP expectations, the better the outcomes.”

Research conducted by College Board also concluded that students who have taken an AP class, even those scoring below passing, are more likely to enroll in a four-year college than those who did not enroll in any AP courses.

However, many educators have noted that the AP Precalculus content would have to be taught at a faster pace to match the pacing of college Precalculus. Though the rigor could encourage vertical alignment in high school math programs, the potential unnecessary stress could leave students even more hesitant to take Calculus.

“[AP Precalculus] has a responsibility to provide a capstone experience, leaving students with some sense of power and potential of mathematics,” Macalester College Mathematics Professor David Bressoud said in a report published by the Mathematical Association of America. “That is a tall order, but it is the one that this development committee must face if this course is to succeed.”

Although it depends on the school, not all colleges will accept AP Precalculus credit. Students can search for schools that will accept their AP Precalculus scores on College Board’s AP Credit Policy Search tool.

At LAHS, Trigonometry/Math Analysis Honors covers all the concepts listed in the AP Precalculus curriculum, including topics not assessed on the AP Precalculus exam.

“In general, our students are coming from our Trigonometry classes and into AP Calculus really prepared,” Sproule said. “If you compare our AP test results to state averages, our students are doing extremely well, and I’m happy with the content they’re learning now.”

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Ashley Tumacder, Staff Writer

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