How Students are “Accelerating” in Math at Aragon

Two weeks ago I posted an article requesting more information about reports regarding an increasing number of freshmen and sophomore students at Aragon who are already enrolled in calculus.  This is what I learned.

Continue reading “How Students are “Accelerating” in Math at Aragon”

The Aragon 2018-2019 School Year Begins – and so do the calls for help

Each school year seems to bring a new set of intriguing questions.

This year Aragon apparently has a fairly large freshman class according to my tutoring students.  As the school’s “best in the district” reputation spreads, it becomes increasingly popular, and everyone wants to transfer their child there.  I am concerned that this is starting to stress the teaching staff.

Even more interesting to me is that, according to student reports, there are a significant number of freshmen and sophomores who are already enrolled in AP calculus.  I wonder how they progressed so far, so fast.  Russian School of Math??  How is this impacting older students in what are already challenging classes?

Finally I have been told that several of the math classes are full, and that students who bit off too much and tried to drop back from Calculus BC to AB found very few, if any, available spots for them.  Meanwhile, I am getting the usual calls for help, but my schedule for this school year filled up as always by early June.

I am trying to get more detailed information on the items above, and have placed some calls.  If any parents of Aragon students, or students themselves, can relate their experiences, either by contacting me privately using the Contact page on this website or via the public Comments section of this article, that would be greatly appreciated.

Note added early AM, 9/17/2018:  As of now, this article has been read 176 times since it was posted on Saturday.  The comments that I have received have all requested anonymity and this will be honored.  I’d appreciate your help shedding light on the questions raised above and will write a follow-up soon. Thank you!

In the interim I would like to remind parents of two of my blog articles written some time ago that are still relevant:

Critical Warnings re AP Classes

Info from UC Berkeley confirms why students should not skip from Precalculus to Calculus BC


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Will a Female Physicist Succeed Where Einstein Failed?

While not strictly an educational issue, this link leads to one of the most fascinating articles that I have read in a long time.  It is about a female physicist named Cohl Furey who is using the hierarchy of number systems (real numbers, complex numbers, quaternions, octonions) to try to explain the fundamental properties of nature.  While this line of investigation may not pan out ultimately, it is extremely interesting and the additional background material linked to from the article is also fascinating.  One can skim some of the details, but it is worth reading in its entirety to get the flavor of modern research into the mysteries of the universe.

Developing the kind of passion with which Dr. Furey pursues her research should be our goal in education.

Since I have a Ph.D., I have often been asked why, after finishing my tech career, I wanted to teach high school instead of college.  Here is an excerpt from the article above that explains why:

Furey, who is 39, said she was first drawn to physics at a specific moment in high school, in British Columbia. Her teacher told the class that only four fundamental forces underlie all the world’s complexity — and, furthermore, that physicists since the 1970s had been trying to unify all of them within a single theoretical structure. “That was just the most beautiful thing I ever heard,” she told me, steely-eyed. She had a similar feeling a few years later, as an undergraduate at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, upon learning about the four division algebras. One such number system, or infinitely many, would seem reasonable. “But four?” she recalls thinking. “How peculiar.”

A good high school teacher has the ability to “launch a thousand ships” to quote Homer. Sad that we are turning our educational system into a standardized test taking machine for college competition…

STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 3 – Physics

This is the third and final article in a three article series.  The first article was about precalculus at Aragon.  The second article focussed on AP Statistics.

In this article I comment on Aragon’s regular and AP physics program. Continue reading “STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 3 – Physics”

STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 2 – AP Statistics

This is the second in a three article series.  The first article was about precalculus at Aragon.  The third article is about Aragon’s physics classes.

AP Statistics is taught by possibly the best math teacher at Aragon, Mr. Shahrvini.  That is a big plus, but this article is intended to provide information to students and parents about what the class entails.

Unfortunately Aragon counselors often portray the class as an “easier alternative to AP Calculus.”  In my experience (and, of course, others might disagree), it is more accurate to describe AP Statistics as being “different” from AP Calculus.  Depending upon a student’s abilities/habits the class might be easier, or it could turn out to be very hard and frustrating. Continue reading “STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 2 – AP Statistics”

STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 1 – Precalculus (with an aside on Multivariable Calculus)

This is the first article in a three article series.  The second article is about AP Statistics at Aragon.  The third article is about Aragon’s physics classes.

For years the Precalculus class at Aragon has served as the hurdle/gateway to AP mathematics.  The unfortunate effects of this “Harry Potteresque sorting” result in my receiving annual calls and emails from desperate parents and students.  I could have just kept quiet and reveled in the boon the class gives my tutoring business.  However, I felt compelled to speak out publicly and address the problems with the system, particularly when they came to a head early in the 2105-2016 school year.

My personal goal is to teach and try to inspire students to love math and science, and I have grown extremely weary of instead having to put band-aids on what I consider is a broken system.

If you are or will  be soon a parent of an Aragon student(s), I urge you to read the following comments carefully and take them into consideration when your student chooses his/her math courses.  I also encourage you to contact the school and lobby for other math options such as I suggest in the article below. Continue reading “STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 1 – Precalculus (with an aside on Multivariable Calculus)”