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Should I Take Calculus in High School?

In the News | February 15, 2020

Enrollment in high school Calculus has exploded in the past several decades. But maybe that’s not a sign of progress. For many students, the rush to Calculus is a bad idea. In his latest column for Forbes, MƒA President John Ewing looks at the question “should I take Calculus in high school?”  

He writes: “Not all students are ready to learn the sophisticated version of calculus, and when most students in a class are not, the impoverished, procedural version of calculus is the one that gets taught. Forcing students into Calculus in high school is a bad idea.”

Ewing also states that calculus is enlightening and elegant, and when properly learned, it can be soul enriching. But the powerful forces – parents, guidance counselors, The College Board, politicians, reform organizations, and more – who push it on high school students can cause disillusion about mathematics and a loss of confidence in their abilities.

“Should you take Calculus in high school? Yes, sure, if you are prepared and you really want to. But don't take it because someone else—your parent or a politician—expects you to. If you aren't ready, put it off until college. Take statistics or combinatorics or probability instead… or even Shakespeare. Don't waste the chance to see calculus for the beautiful subject it really is.”

Read Ewing’s full Forbes column on calculus here.