Teachers to Develop Online BC Calculus Course for Lawrence Public Schools

Until now, advanced students at nearby Lawrence High School have not had the opportunity to take Advanced Placement (AP) BC Calculus because the school does not offer the course.

The Andover Math Department is currently working to establish the Distance Learning Scholar Program to create an online calculus course for both graduates of the Mathematics and Science for Minority Students (MS2) Program and students at Lawrence High School.

The program hopes to provide the opportunity for these students whose respective high schools do not offer BC calculus courses to pursue a higher-level math in an organized setting.

Fernando Alonso, previous director of MS2, Dianne Cruz, the current director of the program and Patrick Farrell, Instructor in Mathematics and Dean of Faculty, spearheaded the project together. Although the program almost reached completion in 2007, the financial crisis prevented the school from establishing any new projects.

Christopher Odden, Instructor in Mathematics, has been chosen to become the first Distance Learning Scholar. Alongside teaching on campus, Odden will be creating materials for the online calculus course next year.

Many public schools in poorer areas do not offer AP BC Calculus courses because of a lack of funding, qualified teachers or interested students, according to Farrell.

“In an ideal world, this program would mean that any young person in the world will be able to study BC Calculus without the impediments that are in the way currently,” said Farrell.

“We hope to equalize the opportunity for everyone to study high level mathematics in high school regardless of his or her situation,” he continued.

The online curriculum will be partially implemented next year at Lawrence High School and will hopefully take full effect by the following year. More online materials will be added and revised over the years to develop the online course into a more extensive program.

Enrolled students will be able to log onto the website, either read or watch a video about a particular concept and complete assessments that supplement the material. The students should also be able to interact with the teacher in one-on-one chat sessions.

The online materials will most likely be available to everyone, but only the enrolled students will be able to have an interaction with a teacher at Andover, according to Farrell.

Allan Scheier, Visiting Scholar in Mathematics from Lawrence High School, hopes the Distance Learning Scholar Program will allow students at Lawrence High School to explore more difficult concepts in math.

“Public schools often have limited resources. If you do not have enough students enrolled in a certain class then it is sometimes hard to justify the use of a teacher and classroom space. This year… only eight students were eligible to take the [AP BC Calculus course],” wrote Scheier in an e-mail to The Phillipian.

“If these students had the opportunity to be enrolled in a distance learning program with Phillips [Academy], they could have taken the class. Distance learning would not replace a teacher, but it has potential for students who are motivated to learn,” Scheier continued.

The idea for this program originated when Farrell began teaching at MS2 in 2004.

Established in 1977, MS2 is a free program spanning three summers that accepts economically disadvantaged African American, Latino and Native American high school students from specific communities across the country to help them develop their mathematical and scientific abilities, according to the Andover website.

Upon the completion of the program, graduates are expected to have mastered the topic of differentiation in calculus.

According to Farrell, students from the MS2 program were unable to maintain the progress they had made during the summer upon returning to their respective high schools. This was due to the fact that their schools did not offer sufficiently challenging courses, so Farrell decided to create an online curriculum to further challenge these students.

The Distance Learning Scholar Program is still in its early stages of development, and some specifics of the program are not yet set in stone, according to Farrell.