During a Calculus workshop I attended, the primary purpose was to run everyone through the curriculum in four days, discussing common student pit falls along the way. It gave me a very new perspective on the class and made it seem so much simpler than it felt 12 years ago. Then I went a reworked the free response questions 18 year old me faced and it was stupid simple.

But, throughout it was assumed that we all knew how to structure the class. Quizzes, tests, and piles of homework done on notebook paper. How anyone decided that was the "standard" way of conducting a class was beyond me. And something I've always wondered, is that the working assumption when studying education in college? I wasn't an education major, but it seems like all the ones I meet just KNOW that you give quizzes, tests, and a pile of homework done on notebook paper. And points. You must be VERY fiddly about points.

Here are my goals for Calculus:

  • homework will be involved, a bit
  • frequent assessment is necessary
  • exposure to the AP format is necessary
  • conceptual understanding is HUGE
  • similar to Algebra II, some foundational skills must persist all year

How I'm going to attempt to implement those goals:


It's got to happen, really just for some persistent exposure. I have no intent on burying them in it, and will try to make sure the assignments are short and have purpose. Initially I was thinking one notebook for notes and another for homework, but forget it, let's just put it all in one place and if they need new ones in the spring, they need new ones in the spring.


Calculus is such a small set of skills when you sit down and look at it. Isolating them into a good SBG list is a little difficult. Plus, with an AP crowd, I don't want them to become dependent on reassessment, a common issue with high level students and SBG. The prevailing idea is to keep assessments frequent: every 7 - 10 calendar days. However, there will be two skills section and one conceptual section, each assessed holistically (probably each section rated between 0 - 5). No fiddly points. I don't think letting them use notebooks on the assessment will help my cause. These are the kids who are really going to have to learn to stand on their own in the face of mediocre college instruction.

Skills can be reassessed whenever. Conceptual not so much. There won't be any built-in replacement, just a series of skills marks accumulated during the grading period (they can be altered by coming after school and trying again). I think I know what this looks like when recorded in a notebook, but I'll wait to see it in person before I share.

The big twist will be a six weeks exam. Something that's existed in our Calculus classes for a couple years. Though I want it to reflect AP format a little better from an appearance and time point of view. In 40 minutes, it's roughly 9 multiple choice questions and a free response question, graded according to AP standards.


The major diversion from my traditional SBG skill system is to allow myself options. Maybe I want to throw in some product rule and quotient rule months after we covered it? Maybe I want to throw in some trig equations? Through the generic heading of "skills" I establish the ability to dig through the whole back catalog. Learning derivative rules in October is great but they need to stick around until April. Everything in the curriculum has to matter.

Our Calculus trainer implemented this through daily pop quizzes. Anything is on the table for these. I don't agree with that method, but the idea has merit.

Confidence is really the enemy here. For whatever reason, our Calculus students buckle under the pressure. I'm hoping frequent exposure to the AP format and forcing them to commit certain things to the deep layers of their memory will help them feel good walking into that exam.

AuthorJonathan Claydon