Northwest Horizons

Northwest lacks higher-level math courses

Shown+here+are+Maxwell%27s+Equations%2C+a+fundamental+component+of+electromagnetism.+Currently%2C+there+are+no+courses+offered+at+Northwest+that+teach+the+mathematics+underlying+the+equations.
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Northwest lacks higher-level math courses

Shown here are Maxwell's Equations, a fundamental component of electromagnetism. Currently, there are no courses offered at Northwest that teach the mathematics underlying the equations.

Shown here are Maxwell's Equations, a fundamental component of electromagnetism. Currently, there are no courses offered at Northwest that teach the mathematics underlying the equations.

Shown here are Maxwell's Equations, a fundamental component of electromagnetism. Currently, there are no courses offered at Northwest that teach the mathematics underlying the equations.

Shown here are Maxwell's Equations, a fundamental component of electromagnetism. Currently, there are no courses offered at Northwest that teach the mathematics underlying the equations.

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For years, the usual progression for the most rigorous math courses at Northwest has been Maths I-III, statistics, precalculus and finally calculus — either AB or BC.

This current order is less than optimal for students, as math teacher Joe Hamilton explained.

“One of the problems with (the current order) is that some students are missing a year’s worth of solid algebra skills prior to precalculus,” Hamilton said. “The reason we (instituted the current order) a few years ago was that some colleges wanted to see students taking calculus their senior year.”

Recently, though, that order has started to change, with students taking precalculus and calculus before statistics their senior year. Admittedly, this is still the exception rather than the norm, but the overall trend is in the direction of the alternative order, which is still suboptimal, because it means students spend their senior year not taking calculus, putting them at a disadvantage as college freshmen.

Some students have instead opted to take Calc 3 at GTCC, after having taken BC calculus their junior year. However, according to math teacher Matt Andrews, this is not a popular choice, due to the perceived lack of rigor of GTCC courses.

“A lot of times, students don’t like to (take Calc 3 at GTCC), because they don’t feel the rigor is as high as it could be,” Andrews said.

Senior Daniel Yim agrees.

“You have to learn everything on your own,” Yim said. “It’s not worth it.”

There is a clear need, then, for a quality higher-level math course, such as multivariable calculus, offered within the school system, either locally at Northwest, or at a centralized location such as Weaver Academy. There are some obstacles, however, to offering a multivariable course, either at Northwest or elsewhere in the county. For one, the number of students who are willing and able to take such a course is admittedly small, as Andrews explained.

“I think (the mentality at the county level) is that it’s only a few students (who would take multivariable),” Andrews said. “But if we’re truly teaching for all students, and we’re here for equity, there should be a place for those top-notch students.”

That couldn’t be more true. Northwest aspires to be a place of excellence, where all students, regardless of ability, have the chance to grow and be challenged — but if top students are robbed of the intellectual nourishment that would be gained from higher-level math offerings, then our school will have failed in its most vital duty.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Northwest lacks higher-level math courses”

  1. Frustrated Student on October 30th, 2018 10:32 pm

    To be honest, the entire math department could use a bit of an overhaul. I have had a multitude of teachers of NW, but by far the worst were in the math department. There is no real teaching going on in some of these classrooms, some teachers do not put any effort into their work which is a problem when they’re teaching a high-level class such as BC Calculus.

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Northwest lacks higher-level math courses