April 25, 2023
Earlier this year I read that the College Board would offer a new AP course in Precalculus beginning in the fall of 2023. What struck me right away was that, in my mind, Precalculus isn’t an “Advanced” course. The last I checked, the “A” in AP stood for Advanced. If a student takes the course as a freshman or sophomore in high school, they might be considered to be on the advanced math track, but taking a test offered by the College Board for a tenth-grade math class just didn’t add up in my mind, let alone taking it as an eleventh or twelfth grader.
On its website, the College Board states that adopting AP Precalculus is: “Preparing a wider range of students to succeed in math they’ll encounter in college.” The first bullet point under the category of Why Offer AP Precalculus states: “…the opportunity to earn college credit and/or placement and stand out to colleges.” (I might also note that on all three pictures on the AP Precalulus webpage, someone is holding a Texas Instruments calculator. All three. You can read my opinion on that in my next article.)
Really? I can’t see many colleges or universities giving credit for a Precalculus class. Stand out? With even the most selective schools opting now to go “test-optional”, is this course and this test really allowing a student to stand out? Maybe I am missing something but to be sure I can’t come up with one valid reason to believe this would be something worth pursuing for a high school math student.
I decided I needed to reach out to other people in education to get their opinion. I solicited input from current and former college counselors at independent schools, guidance counselors at both large and small public high schools, current heads of schools, and college admission offices at both public and private institutions to get their feedback. Not surprisingly, the most common theme in all of my correspondence was “money grab”, “another way to make money”, and one simple response, “$$$$”. In an effort to subsidize the loss of money that the pandemic created, the College Board is literally “doing anything possible to try to stay afloat and make money.”
With college campuses seeing a drop in applications, and pandemic-age high school students not wanting to go into debt, I believe we need to rethink…