Student Opinion: Should Precalculus be Changed to a Weighted Course?

The Precalculus Textbook that Dublin High School utilizes.

Summer Shi

The Precalculus Textbook that Dublin High School utilizes.

“Should Precalculus be changed to a weighted course?”

To this day, this question remains one of the hottest debates within the student body. Currently, the Precalculus course at Dublin High School utilizes flipped learning, which changes the current class dynamic by eliminating traditional lectures in favor of short videos that students watch at home before coming to class. Flipped learning was implemented at Dublin High School in 2011 after “Precalculus teachers Barbara Hall and Lenni Velez saw this concept work in an Honors Chemistry class taught by former Dublin High School teacher Kim Baumann” (One Dublin). The intended purpose is that students master the course content at home, come to class to ask teachers questions, take daily check-up quizzes (LTQs), and take large summative unit tests. Though how practical is this approach when it comes to math? Should students be rewarded with a weighted grade for the work they put into learning rigorous math concepts through flipped learning?

 

Through this piece, I argue that it is necessary to change Precalculus to a weighted course if flipped learning continues to be the method of instruction. My argument is formulated on the basis of student interviews and personal experience. It is important to note that no teacher interviews were conducted specifically for this article, but interviews from when flipped learning was first implemented can be found here. First, it is crucial to recognize the most obvious reason Precalculus should be weighted: high schoolers have to take time out of their evenings to learn the course curriculum. High schoolers must be concerned with various extracurriculars outside of school along with homework received from other classes. According to student reports, it takes approximately 1-1.5 hours to watch the videos and understand the content. (Times vary, but the general consensus is that students watch the videos multiple times for understanding– which explains the time it takes).  On top of taking 1 hour to learn the content, students still have to work on additional practice problems to prepare for exams/LTQs. 

 

Precalculus is one of the most fundamental pillars of math, as all higher math utilizes concepts learned in this class. Yet having students learn the content at home, where they may not be as productive and can’t afford hours for just one subject, seems counterproductive. Making students spend all of this extra time and effort at home to self-learn while not being rewarded has caused quite an upset among students. 

 

After asking a Junior about their experience in this class, they reported, “last year, I spent 2-3 hours every day trying to watch the lecture videos and then working on homework. It was so unproductive because I couldn’t have my questions answered immediately. Flipped learning was so hard for me because the exam questions would have nothing to do with the homework/video practice problems, and I would be so lost. To add to the injury, the course was unweighted. I worked so hard only to be met with no reward whatsoever,” reported a Junior anonymously. 

 

Furthermore, the rigorous nature of the Precalculus course at Dublin High should qualify the course to be an Honors course. Students go through multiple units of the textbook rapidly and have to take LTQs every other day to check for understanding. This has left students on edge, as another Junior reports that “Precalculus was one of the hardest math classes I have taken. Compared to AP Calculus AB, Precalculus was 20x harder. I’m not sure why the class is unweighted because we go through too much material in too little time. I couldn’t absorb 90% of the information we learned because it was too fast.” Based on student feedback, the speed of the course should be enough of an indicator that the course qualifies to be an Honors course. 

 

Another student adds, “There are so many concepts in Precalculus it is impossible to make students learn all of them at home. A lot of the instruction seemed simple enough, but when it came time to apply the concepts, it was impossible since I didn’t have a strong understanding of the concepts in the first place. I think the course would be better structured if the instruction was in class and the class weighted. I really loved my teacher, she was wonderful, but I think the structure of the course itself just pulled me down.”

 

Additionally, Precalculus at other schools that have implemented flipped learning is considered a weighted course. For example, according to a Foothill High school student, their Precalculus course is also flipped, but the course is weighted. Given all of these factors, it is easy to see why students continue to be displeased with the current state of the Precalculus course. At the end of the day, everyone has their opinions. But Dublin High School should still seriously consider students’ voices and conduct a sincere evaluation of the current course. No course is perfect, and changes must be made here and there to accommodate students.