Preparation in precalculus

Our Position: The LT Math Department should change the curriculum on the precalculus courses to better introduce students to calculus concepts prior to taking calculus at higher levels.


Calculus is a difficult subject for many students in both high school and in college, and the reason for that is not necessarily because the concepts themselves are extremely difficult; it is mainly because a lot of the concepts that make up the basis of calculus are entirely foreign to students who have had no prior experience with the subject. However, in order to bridge the gap between calculus and algebra, schools should implement basic calculus concepts such as how to take derivatives and calculate integrals during the precalculus course. This way students’ transition to the higher level math course won’t be so difficult.

LT already has strong programs when it comes to AP courses, of the more than 2500 students who took AP courses last year, more than 89% got a score of three or above. This editorial is not meant to say that the AP courses at LT, or specifically LT math department is doing something wrong, but that there are more ways that the curriculum can improve.

Calculus is the mathematical study of continuous change, essentially how numbers change with respect to different variables. Many of the calculus concepts are entirely alien to students who are taking the course for the first time; however, having exposure to how to take derivatives, integrals, and basic groundwork for calculus during precalculus can be beneficial. Then the calculus classes can spend less time focusing on how to do more advanced skills u-substitution and more time learning practical applications of calculus such as calculus and motion and finding areas between curves or even differential equations.

Like all courses at LT, the precalculus course is split into two semesters; however, first semester is mostly review of material learned in Algebra II. While it is beneficial to have a strong base in many of these concepts to do well in higher level mathematics, it would be more beneficial to cover the topics taught in second semester in the first semester of the class. Covering these topics earlier in the year can free up more time to cover Limits, Integrals and Derivatives in second semester, which are either barely touched on or not mentioned at all.

While the precalculus curriculum at LT covers basics to limits and the difference quotient, learning more calculus before actually taking the course could prove to be very beneficial to students and make the Calc BC or AB courses not move at such a fast pace for a class that is entirely new to students. This change would also give AP calculus students more time to prepare for their AP exam, as they have less material to cover.