Is it okay to take only 3 math classes during HS (if kid has 6 HS math credits)?

Hi, we are looking for advice re our rising HS Junior’s math pathway. Our question (the short version!) is whether it will be an issue for college applications if she has taken only 3 math classes during HS, even if she has 6 HS math credits and ends with AP Calc AB and AP Stat. She is undecided on major between bio sciences and English.

The long version: She opted in 7th grade for a doubly-accelerated pathway and so ended up taking AP Calc AB as a sophomore. She did not have a good time in Calc AB - ended with a B (her only B to date!) but a lot of stress and frustration. Currently she is signed up for AP Stat in junior year.
Back in middle school, we thought the accel pathway would open up space for non-math classes in HS, but later learned that officially the school system requires students to take 4 math classes during high school. However, kids seem to be able to circumvent this and take only 3 math classes in HS.
Currently she is hoping to take AP stat as a junior and then not take a math class in senior year. The other options would be AP Calc Bc (she is not keen on this but it’s the only other option her HS has) or to take a dual-enrollment math class (not sure which…).

Grateful for all advice. Thank you!

She needs a math class all 4 years of HS. Classes taken before HS typically do not count toward the 4-yr math requirement. Have her take BC and Stats for the last two yrs of HS.

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Depends on the college as to whether they look at level completed (calculus implying completion of the non-accelerated 4th year of high school math which is precalculus), or if they want to see math every year, or if they want to see math or math-heavy course in 12th grade (Washington public universities).

A biology major in college may need calculus and statistics as graduation requirements.

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Most colleges would like to see a student take 4 years of HS math if the courses are offered. If she chooses not to, they will look to see that she replaced it with another rigorous course.

Can you leave the B behind and look forward? Is the BC teacher better than the AB teacher? Is her junior schedule full of other challenging classes? I would normally suggest taking BC right after AB but, if taking BC junior year is too difficult, she can take stats as a junior and BC as a senior. It will be more difficult to remember the AB material after a year off, but colleges will see BC as IP (in progress) and not see the grade until later.

If she is interested in Bio Sci, I would make sure that she has as much math and science in HS as possible - not only for her application but to make sure she has the foundational knowledge before starting college.

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My sons 8th grade math class counts as a high school credit.

We are allowing him to not take a math class his senior year.

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If he is interested in STEM majors and a selective or highly selective college you may want him to reconsider to keep his options open.

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To keep her options open, adding a math her senior year will be helpful. AP Stats is great for bio and lots of interests this coming junior year.

Maybe there is a dual enrollment math course for Senior year that may be of interest. Depending on her score on the AP exam, she may be able to take Calc at the local community college for credit her senior year.

Have her look at the colleges she is interested in applying to. Some cared less what you did in 7th or 8th grade (MIT, Brown).

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it is very high school and colllege dependent so no perfect answer. However there are colleges that do say 4 years of math required including math senior year (Umass Amherst is an example I think). They can also say what was the point of accelerating just to stop. As long as you find out if your high school will give a diploma with only 3 years of math taken during high school years then it is a decision you have to make along with accepting possible college consequences which may or may not happen. What about looking at a dual enrollment 1 semester option which will count as a full year for high school.

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I am aware that if he wanted to go to selective colleges he should take a math class his senior year.

My son is an upcoming senior with a 3.3 GPA. He isn’t getting into a “selective” college anyways.
Nor would those be environments my son would enjoy.

My son will graduate with 4 credits of math. I refuse to even attempt to “force” him to take another math class at his high school. He is fully aware of how this “limits” his college choices. My son does not need a math class his senior year to graduate. His 8th grade math does show up on his high school transcript as it was an actual high school class he took taught with an actual high school teacher at the high school (kids are then bussed back to the middle school).

Could not taking a math her senior year affect colleges? Only if she has a certain few schools in mind. You know your child. For my son it was not worth his mental health to take a senior year of math.

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Thanks to everyone for your advice, very helpful indeed and gives us lots to think about. I think our concern academically is in potentially limiting her options, so it sounds like the safer approach would be to take a math class each year. Whether to stick with AP Stat in junior and take Calc BC or a DE class in senior, or to go with the more typical flow of BC right after AB is a decision she will need to make and isn’t easy. I think we all regret following this math pathway - some of the foundational classes she took back in 8th grade she did virtually (in order to jump ahead) and she did not learn the content as well as she would have done in a classroom setting. But here we are.
@lkg4answers The AB teacher was tough in that she was just very inconsistent. My daughter felt like she was solid on the material in class, but the tests (which were the bulk of the grade) covered stuff that wasn’t taught and so a large part of the class would bomb each test (grades in the teens!). If the teachers remain the same (and this is always unknown really until school starts), the BC teacher seems to be better. I think my daughter just had such a stressful experience in AB that she feels Stat will be the safer option. But there is the concern that a year off might make BC even harder.
@Pathnottaken @momtogirls2 She has talked about taking a math DE class in senior year but we started looking at DE math class options and found the choice a little overwhelming, and there is very little counseling via her school counseling office. May need to revisit this. My concern is whether that will look to colleges like “side-stepping” BC. Maybe there would be a Stat class that would follow AP Stat.

This is her current Junior yr course list:
AP Stat
AP Lang
APUSH
AP Biology
AP Research (took AP Seminar in 10th grade, so this completes the AP Capstone diploma)
Forensic Science (advanced studies)
Solar system studies (advanced studies)
Yearbook
(she took German up to level 4 in 10th and isn’t planning to take AP German, but is also considering a German DE class in senior yr)

She is pretty undecided for college between the areas of bio sciences and English, so it would be good to keep options open. She knows that she doesn’t want to apply to the Ivies or a “high pressure” environment, but beyond that doesn’t have a college list yet. She quite liked Davidson when we toured for our S22, and also likes Emory. She is potentially thinking about Vet Med and we are in GA so the UGA vet med program is a possible application.
Thanks to all!

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If she is considering going into veterinary medicine, she will need top grades in college. College calculus will be required and will cover more than what she learned in both AB and BC. If she takes BC in HS, where it is slower paced, it will make it easier (not easy) to be successful in her pre-vet calculus courses.

It isn’t just about checking a box that a number of math courses were completed. Colleges are looking for students who will be successful at their institutions, and that includes having an adequate foundation in math. Trying to side step that high school foundation may create a similar problem to what happened in junior high.

There is a life lesson to be taught and learned. Don’t let a rigorous course, tough teacher and a B grade hold her back from taking higher level math courses. Pre-vet is going to be rigorous and she will have college profs that are unreasonable or just not good teachers. She can’t change majors every time she takes a difficult class. Has she looked at places like Khan Academy for courses to take this summer to refresh what she missed in 8th grade and/or in AB?

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The typical math courses that could come after calculus AB or calculus 1 in college (including through dual enrollment) would be:

  • calculus 2 (material mostly overlaps with calculus BC)
  • linear algebra (but may list calculus 2 as a prerequisite)
  • discrete math (mostly of interest to computer science and math majors)
  • calculus-based statistics (prerequisite is calculus, not statistics)

She would need to check the college’s German placement guidelines. Four years of high school German could lead to placement anywhere from second to fourth semester college German, depending on the high school and college.

Calculus is not required for many vet schools. It may be a requirement of your degree but if not it isn’t necessary. My son (starting his 3rd year of vet school didn’t take calculus in college. He took college algebra and that was all he needed. He did have Calculus AB in high school but didn’t even take the AP test because he is not a math kid (got As but barely). His college counted his accelerated class towards their requirement and he did not take a math his Senior year but took 2 science courses.

Yes, thanks for catching that. It might not be required for grad school but it will likely be required a science degree (ex. Bio Sci) that she majors in, in order to apply to vet school.

Yes, that will depend on the major. For animal science it was not required where my son went to school and several other schools he looked at. Biology at his school did require it.

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Yes and that is variable by school. Both Animal Science and Animal Biology at UC Davis require calculus. Since OP mentioned UGA, their Animal Science major requires calculus as well.

If OP’s daughter is trying to avoid taking calculus, she would have to look for majors and colleges where it is not required.

Davidson and Emory are quite competitive, as are her Pre-Vet goals. My two cents would be to brush up on AB this summer, and take BC as junior, assuming she passed the AP test for AB. This plan seems the most likely to avoid appearing to side-step BC, to help her do her best in BC, and to prepare her for her intended major. Her junior year does not need Solar system studies or Forensics, so one of these could be removed to allow more time to excel in BC.

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