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Re-Thinking Calculus in High Schools

In early April, the NCTM and the MAA released a joint position statement on the teaching and learning of calculus in secondary schools.

Their overall claim: "The ultimate goal of the K-12 mathematics curriculum should not be to get students into and through a course in calculus by twelfth grade but rather to have established the mathematical foundation that will enable students to pursue whatever course of study interests them when they get to college."

Some related suggestions:

  • Faculty in colleges and universities should work with high school faculty to "re-envision the role of calculus in schools"
  • A high school calculus course should have the "substance of a mainstream college-level course"
  • Colleges and universities should "reshape the college calculus curriculum so that it is appropriate for those who have experienced introductory calculus in high school"
  • Colleges and universities need to offer "viable alternative mathematics paths to college level mathematics for incoming high school students"
  • College and university faculty and high school teachers need to re-define what it means for "a student to be ready for college-level mathematics, as they develop appropriate alternatives to calculus in transitioning from high school to college"
In the words of Mike Shaughnessy, NCTM President: "Calculus is often viewed as the entry path to college mathematics...NCTM and MAA agree that a high-school calculus course should not be the be all and end all of mathematics, nor the only transition path from high school to college mathematics...."