Saturday, March 26, 2011

Are you teaching Calculus next year?

I've been doing it for how many years now? 27 years (I think) ... so much time, so many really cool kids. I guess one thing I really like about teaching calculus is that I can't recall a bad student.

Anyway, for those who are setting up a course for next year:

Text (by author):
  • It will probably be Larson or Stewart. Stewart is the more common college text, but Larson is the more HS-friendly. I personally use Larson 7th. I've taught from this book since the third edition and I feel very comfortable with it.
  • Hughes-Hallet-Gleason did things in an odd organization, IMNSHO. In a tutoring situation, I had this thing and it was oddly laid out, with integration happening before the end of differentials. You might like it, but I'm too used to the Larson / Stewart / Thomas Finney organization.
  • Ostebee-Zora is dense for highschool students.
  • Thomas and Finney was cool ten years ago but seems to have fallen out of favor. Don't know why.

If you want to stretch your boundaries and go 21st Century on your kids, there are many online texts.  I'd love to try this and I'm planning on putting selected sections on the Moodle. WolframAlpha will be required for some assignments.
  • Neat place to start is the California site:
    • MIT OC:
Additional resources:
  • and of course, Salman Khan on YouTube.
AP insists you fulfill their audit process - mostly they need a syllabus, but you have to complete it if your school wants to put the "AP" label on it. Someone at your school may have already fulfilled that requirement -- make sure to check. Soon.  Here's my syllabus if you want to copy it.

The Summer Before
If you can, and can afford it or if your school with cover costs, hit up a summer AP seminar. The Summer AP Institute at St. Johnsbury VT is one of the best.

The environment is as close as you can get to smart-people nirvana. One week surrounded by a bunch of AP teachers in an informal setting in the Vermont summer. Learn, work, relax, eat REALLY good food, play bocce on the lawn and drink free beer with a slew of brilliant people till dinner. Like you can get better than this? It's $1100 but worth it ... especially if your school will pony up. Skip the dorm and use the savings and a little extra of yours and take your wife -- a hotel isn't much more and it's a wonderful town.

Yeah, what the Hell, TI?
(from Randall at XKCD) And the marginally colored TI-Inspire doesn't get you off the hook, either.

  • Every kid should have a TI-84 or the equivalent.  I don't require them to buy one but I'll warn them that the ones available in the room for borrowing are often changed and reset by the algebra I kids, making it difficult for the occasional user to get started. "Radians or degrees", language set to Deutsch, etc.  There is a new wrinkle, though:  The graphing calculator app for iPhone and Android devices.  It's got a better screen resolution and it only costs $3 for the phone they already own. 
  • Excel is useful - Google apps works, too. Just be ready to reserve time occasionally in the computer room.
  • Pencil and paper
To be continued.

    1 comment:

    1. I've been teaching AP for almost as long. I've attended the summmer workshop in NY, fantastic but not picturesque and I did have to go home and cook dinner every night. There are also great one-day workshops usually once a year.
      The UFT used to sponsor one-day workshops that were invaluable for picking up materials. Much of the stuff I learned about the exam was from the people I met there-the ones who write and mark the exam. As for my syllabus, I don't want to put it online, but I too would be happy to share on a 1:1 basis, all I need is an e-mail request.

      This will probably be my last year of doing it and the thought of giving it up depresses me greatly. I love these kids, even the ones that are not great students. (And I have several of those.)