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Should I let my son switch to AP Calculus AB?

BluEyeLBluEyeL 45 replies10 postsRegistered User Junior Member
My son is a senior in high school and school just started this past Thursday. His intended major is Computer Science and the school of choice is Purdue.
He is enrolled in AP Calculuus BC. He had this teacher in 10th grade for Algebra 2 and he said he never benefited from any of her classes, he never comes out of class understanding the material, and has to re-study it at home. Thus, he is very worried about doing well in this class. He would like to switch to AP Calculus AB, but we are not sure if that's a good idea, given his intended major.

A couple of years ago, we actually walked into Purdue admissions (we live in town) and discussed briefly what their requirements would be. The admission officer asked him what classes he intended to take and when he said at the time Calculus AB, she had said "why not BC?". Thus, it just seems he would need to stick it out in BC and make sure he doesn't do a bad job. Incidentally, the oficer also asked why AP Bio and not AP Physics, but he still didn't take AP Physics because Honors Physics was very hard (made A- anyway) and was afraid to go to AP Physics.

Anyone has any advice on whether would be bad if he switched to AB?
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Replies to: Should I let my son switch to AP Calculus AB?

  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6600 replies39 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think your son is better off getting an A in AB than risking a poor grade in BC. He can still start in Calc II at Purdue if he scores high enough on the AP exam.

    Is he applying to CS in the college of science or in engineering? If it's through the college of engineering, I would highly recommend reconsidering the decision about not taking AP physics. That was by far the most useful HS course for my D and she would have been lost in the engineering design course without it. (She's starting her sophomore year at Purdue in chemical engineering).






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  • BluEyeLBluEyeL 45 replies10 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    He is going to the college of Science. Thank you! But I wonder if for admissions would AB be seen as not challenging enough. Sigh..so much pressure...
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6600 replies39 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    CS is crazy competitive now so I understand the hesitation.
    FWIW, I think having a strong understanding is going to be more important than if it's AB or BC. The math sequence at Purdue is no joke.
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1206 replies24 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think your son is better off getting an A in AB than risking a poor grade in BC.

    As a senior, I’m not sure getting an “A” is much as a factor as showing colleges your class rigor senior year as they primarily are going to be looking at sophomore/junior grades and won’t even know your senior class grades by the time they make their admission decisions. If you plan on being a STEM major I say take BC.
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1426 replies30 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 11
    If the teacher is the main issue rather than something else like pace, consider getting started with a weekly calc tutor from the very beginning of the BC course. Don't wait until things turn south. I'd work on tracking one down now, if you can afford it (in our area, 45/hr for small group).
    edited August 11
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  • BluEyeLBluEyeL 45 replies10 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks everyone. Good point about the rigor showing up at the application time, and not the actual grade (which DS says it'll be at least a B no matter what). And way ahead of you all on the tutoring front. I hired a tutor twice a week and he already had a session on Thursday - first day of schoo :)) Tiger mom. It's $30/h for individual.
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  • NASA2014NASA2014 2326 replies127 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 11
    If he thinks he still needs more help understanding the material. There a YouTuber named Professor Leonard. The lectures are one of the best anyone could ask for. Sadly, the videos are very long but at the end, it's very worth it.
    Calculus 1 playlist
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF797E961509B4EB5
    Calculus 2 Playlist
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDesaqWTN6EQ2J4vgsN1HyBeRADEh4Cw-
    Calculus 3 Playlist
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDesaqWTN6ESk16YRmzuJ8f6-rnuy0Ry7
    edited August 11
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  • BluEyeLBluEyeL 45 replies10 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks! I'll give him the links!
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  • sciencenerdsciencenerd 1548 replies236 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Just to add in further regarding college credit for Calc BC/Physics. Calc 2 and Physics are usually the weed out courses for engineering. It will be highly beneficial, thought not required, to take them in high school and then the student can retake or skip the course in college.
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  • BluEyeLBluEyeL 45 replies10 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Unfortunately, he just refuses to take AP Physics, and I don't have as much nagging power as in the past. haha He'll have to deal with it. But he's not going to Engr.
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  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 6642 replies140 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 12
    BluEyeL wrote: »
    He had this teacher in 10th grade for Algebra 2 and he said he never benefited from any of her classes, he never comes out of class understanding the material, and has to re-study it at home.
    1) It sounds like your S had the typical unrealistic expectation that the teacher would just slather on the knowledge like peanut butter, requiring no effort on his part. In difficult subjects it rarely works that way. Learning happens by a variety of efforts and inputs and no small amount of applying oneself.

    2) Just because he didn't feel like he was getting much out of class 2 years ago, he should not go into this course with the utterly self-defeating attitude that he just isn't going to understand a word she says. Presumably he is older and more developed and this is different material. Give it (and the teacher) a chance.

    3) Poor algebra skills are a major reason for poor performance in calculus, so he will find out how well he did at teaching himself algebra.

    4) I was a mathphobe in high school. When I got to Calculus I in college I was so concerned that I would not do well that I did pretty much every problem in the text, to the tune of around 150/week. Practice, work hard, and stop blaming the faculty.

    edited August 12
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  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1249 replies44 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 13
    For our state engineering flagship, if a student attends an affluent school that has Calc BC and from which they get a lot of applicants, they want to see STEM majors take it. Rural schools I think any Calc is ok.

    I think the rigor is esp. a factor here since he's not taking Physics.

    Ask the GC at your HS -- they probably have a sense of how changing would affect admissions chances from your school.

    If he does stick it out, he only needs the A or high B, if numeric, by mid-year and sounds like with right support he could do that. Finishing with a B for the year is no big deal as he'll be admitted by then.

    Then in terms of what to take at Purdue once he arrives, he should consult his advisor. Some colleges it makes sense to repeat a semester; others it doesn't.
    edited August 13
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6600 replies39 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 14
    Then in terms of what to take at Purdue once he arrives, he should consult his advisor. Some colleges it makes sense to repeat a semester; others it doesn't.

    Purdue has all the calc exams and finals on line. Students are encouraged to take some of the tests and see how they fair. If they consistently are scoring over 80% (that would be an A at Purdue since the means on exams typically are in the low 60s, sometimes as low as the mid 40s), they're encouraged by their advisors to move to the next level of calc. There is all kinds of different "advice" about what to do and not to do from students but honestly, listen to the advisors.

    Purdue also allows extra recitations for both Calc I and II. For example, my D skipped Calc I but added a recitation for II, so her class was 5 credits - 3 days/week of lecture and 2 days/week of small group recitation. it worked well for her. Otherwise the "normal" calc class is 4 credits with just one day/week of small group recitation. She found the PhD student TAs that teach the calc recitations to be incredibly smart and excellent at explaining difficult concepts.
    edited August 14
    Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
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  • Gator88NEGator88NE 6412 replies197 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    My daughter had a similar issue (issues with the BC teacher) her senior year (2014). She switched to AB, and it didn't cause any problems (in admissions or when taking Calc1, 2 and 3). She's now a working Industrial Engineer.

    Could it impact admissions to Purdue CS? Maybe. Other factors will have a much greater impact (GPA, test scores), I wouldn't think AB vs BC will be the deciding factor, but no one really knows. As with any student, he should apply to other matches and safeties, in case he doesn't get accepted to Purdue.

    Good Luck!
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  • squ1rrelsqu1rrel 346 replies23 postsRegistered User Member
    To add to resources, check out Paul's Online Math Notes, Calculus II
    http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/Classes/CalcII/CalcII.aspx
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  • momtogirls2momtogirls2 783 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    My nephew applied to college for comupter science. He took Calculus AB which was all his school offered. He had no trouble getting accepted to schools including ivy league which he attended. He thought he would be behind in math but found that many kids some of whom had only taken precalculus, some AB, some BC where all is the same math class to start. He did fine. Basically not taking BC did not hurt him at all.
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  • bjkmombjkmom 7939 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    If he's old enough to take AP courses, he's old enough to trust his gut.
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2331 replies5 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    "He took Calculus AB which was all his school offered."
    Then adcoms are not going to hold it against the applicant if that's the highest that's offered, however the OP's son can take BC.

    "He thought he would be behind in math but found that many kids some of whom had only taken precalculus, some AB, some BC where all is the same math class to start."

    That seems odd for an ivy that they all started in the same level of math. Many kids (not most of course), will have taken a class or two beyond Calculus (Stats, m/v, diff equations) so taking calculus again would mean they didn't place out of it or want the easy A. Given that 61% of kids taking the BC get a 4 or 5, kind of hard to believe that an ivy would force students to start at the same math. Even Columbia which has a core for engineering gives credit for a 4 or 5.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5484 replies10 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    If he could do well (which might involve a tutor) on BC and not have it take so much bandwidth that he could still do well in other classes and have life, that would be preferable. But if he is genuinely concerned that he won't be able to master the material pr that it will require an excessive time commitment, AB is the better choice. At the end of the day, it's about mastery of the material, not the words on the transcript. Taking AB could perhaps be held against him by some schools -- as would a lower grade in BC - but I am a firm believer in having a good foundation. And I suspect most schools will be fine with AB. Learning to optimize one's workload is an important skill too.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77098 replies671 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    My nephew applied to college for comupter science. He took Calculus AB which was all his school offered. He had no trouble getting accepted to schools including ivy league which he attended. He thought he would be behind in math but found that many kids some of whom had only taken precalculus, some AB, some BC where all is the same math class to start. He did fine. Basically not taking BC did not hurt him at all.
    That seems odd for an ivy that they all started in the same level of math.

    Could be that the "same math class to start" was calculus 1, with the following students:
    * Students who completed up to precalculus in high school.
    * Students who took a calculus course that is less rigorous than AP calculus in high school.
    * Students who took AP calculus but scored poorly on the AP test, so they did not get advanced placement.
    * Students who took AP calculus, scored well on the AP test, but felt lost when looking at the college's old calculus 1 final exam.
    * Students who took AP calculus, scored well on the AP test, but followed forum conventional wisdom (which I do not agree with) to unconditionally repeat their AP credit.
    * Students who took AP calculus, scored well on the AP test, but repeated their AP credit for grade grubbing purposes.
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