Dynamic Mathematics Offerings
Did you know that three seniors ---Charles Barksdale, Rohit Gondi and Wayne Hu --- completed Multivariable Calculus, a course generally taken in the sophomore year of college by Math, Physics and Engineering majors? This course is through an online self-paced program with Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. And, Wayne Hu threw in Linear Algebra, just for good measure. This Academic Point will show you how these kinds of advanced math courses can happen at Episcopal these days.
“Dynamic” is a good adjective to use when looking over the last few years of progress in Episcopal’s Mathematics curriculum.
In the months before I arrived at Episcopal in June 2010, Singapore Math was adopted for Lower and Middle School use. It was rolled out with high professionalism including retaining a consultant from LSU, Dr. Scott Baldridge-- parent of Autumn Baldridge (’26), and creating a multi-year professional development program, all with the active involvement of Ms. Pam Goodner (Math Department Chair at the time) and Dr. Leslie Arceneaux (a fifth grade math teacher then). That quite significant change has served our students in grades K to 7 well. Singapore Math has proved to be a good math foundation.
As I wrote the paragraph above, it felt that introducing Singapore Math occurred “so long ago.” I think that feeling arises from knowing all the improvements that have followed and flowed after introducing Singapore Math.
The math journey begins in Pre-K3 through 3rd grade with all teachers in their self-contained classrooms following specific curriculum guidelines. In 4th and 5th grade students rotate to study math with a teacher dedicated to teaching math to the entire grade level. These math teachers, typically, use differentiated grouping of students to reinforce and to challenge students with non-routine problems and thinking activities at their own level.
Significant shifts in recent years in Middle School allow some eighth graders (10 this year) to take Honors Geometry during the regular school year, others to take Honors Geometry over the summer, and a good-sized group of sixth graders (14 this year) to tackle 7th grade math. These creative adjustments to the Middle School offerings prepare a chunk of students interested and able in math to push the math envelope by taking advanced math courses during the four years of Upper School. Everyone in Middle School conquers Pre-Algebra and at least 60% are able to move through Algebra I and on into Geometry.
The Middle School math options have facilitated beginning high school science in 8th grade and taking more advanced science courses than ever before-- in fact approximately 8% of our current junior and senior students take AP Chemistry and another advanced science during their school day. Three other students actually take three advanced science courses.
The Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus BC course we have is offered by only half as many schools as AP Calculus AB. In recent years, 15-20% of each graduating class at Episcopal has completed coursework through AP Calculus BC. Moreover, for the last five or more years, Episcopal students are wildly successful on the AP exam (which is scored on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest) earning an average score of 4.21. By comparison, the national average was 3.18 placing Episcopal students in the top 15-20% nationwide. There is no doubt about the high math achievement.
In Honors PreCalculus, the decision to teach Trigonometry in the Fall, while atypical, creates a valuable opportunity for students to begin AP Calculus concepts that Spring in a small-group, semi-independent study atmosphere. Picture roughly ten students around a conference table watching a video in the style of Khan Academy and then assuming the role of teacher for each other. As a result, many juniors who might have only taken AP Calculus AB their senior year take AP Calculus BC instead.
In addition to AP Calculus and AP Statistics, students at Episcopal also have the opportunity to earn up to nine hours of college credit in College Algebra, Trigonometry and Business Calculus through a Dual Enrollment partnership with LSU. These courses are taught at Episcopal, by Episcopal’s teachers. While the college credit is beneficial, the opportunity to take courses taught so similarly in style to that of the universities many of our students will attend is definitely college preparatory.
Math Department Chair, Stephen Anderson (’02), came “home” to Episcopal to teach math and to coach swimming in 2011 after he began a successful teaching career at Central High School. After a few years of teaching various math courses and inspiring many student math scholars, he became Math Department Chair. His leadership has robustly moved forward in a tailored manner. He and his colleagues have provided students with personalized pathways, enhancing their knowledge and appreciation of math.
The math faculty has supported the design of the Academic Commons. Thanks to them, new types of collaborative learning environments support the math faculty’s work to provide students instruction at customized skill levels.
During the current school year, the Upper School math faculty taught the following courses as their contribution to building strong critical math skills: