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AP Calculus teacher not very good

  1. Feb 24, 2015 #1
    Hello forum, I'm a high school senior, who is taking a AP Calculus course, I enjoy math a lot and I'm attending Missouri S&T next fall to pursue a degree in physics. My problem is my AP Calculus teacher is not a very good teacher, I've even talked to others in my class about this and most of them did not even sign up for the college credit this year because they felt they needed to take the course again. Let me explain. Most of my class, even the normal straight A kids are getting low grades, she does not teach the material very well, most of the time there is a lot of confusion, it seems like she just rushes through the material, she also likes to go extremely off topic most of the time with half of the class being story time, and also my class sadly encourages this. The overall classroom atmosphere is very bad. I often have to go learn things on my own, and it is a struggle sometimes as I am taking two other AP courses which are being taught correctly and rigorously. Then she does things like give take home tests, which I thought was weird for a AP course?, but even when she gives these take home tests most of the class still struggles and even are constantly asking other math teachers for help. I must mention this year is she has been pregnant all year and will be leaving for a while in April, that is why I also feel bad, because I understand that but I don't know if that is the specific reason, and I don't mean to offend anybody.

    So my question is has anybody had any experiences like this in a AP course or a higher level class?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2015 #2
    Hmm. Bad teacher. Teaching yourself at home. Are you sure you're not already in college?

    It's unfortunate that you're having a bad experience seeing as how calculus is very important for STEM fields. What's important that you take away from the course is that you need to be comfortable with the concepts when the course is complete. In differential calculus, that's taking any derivative, understanding the meanings of first and second derivatives, finding maximums and minimums, and knowing limit rules, and in integral calculus, that's basic integration techniques (u- and to a lesser extent, trig- substitution, integration by parts, partial fractions), Taylor series stuff, and basic sequences and series stuff. If you're comfortable with that stuff, you should be fine.

    Unfortunately, many college professors were hired based on their research ability, not their teaching ability, so teaching yourself on your own time to supplement the classwork is a very valuable skill to know.
  4. Feb 24, 2015 #3
    You might want to confront her about it and tell her how she might be able to improve. That might seem too aggressive to you, but I can tell you as someone who actually was in her shoes--I was a bad teacher, especially the first time I taught--I wish someone would have told me how I could have improve, rather than silently playing the blame game on me. Just make sure she knows you are trying to help her and not to attack her, and she may be surprisingly open to suggestions. You don't have to do it. It's just a thought if you want things to improve. Also, keep in mind that teaching is harder than it looks. I never thought there would be anything particularly hard about it until I had to actually do it.
  5. Feb 27, 2015 #4
    Luckily, I had a very good AP calculus and physics teacher, who triggered my passion to pursue science. If you still feel strong about learning math and physics, then I'd say keep learning the material yourself. As axmls said, you will often times find yourself studying off the book or internet lectures in college level courses (not all of them however).
  6. Feb 27, 2015 #5
    I honestly would not do that under any circumstances. I'm not trying to be rude or anything, really not, but that will almost certainly not go well. The OP is in high school, not collgege, and I very much doubt that any high school teacher is going to listen to a high schooler tell her about how she's a bad teacher and doesn't know what she's doing and how to improve. I know none of my teachers would pay any attention, and the only thing I can see coming out of it realistically is the teacher disliking the OP.
  7. Feb 27, 2015 #6


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    The issue could very well be that this teacher is not well qualified to teach the course. She may be technically qualified in terms of her teaching certification, but one migh question how much math has she learned beyond introductory calculus. Depending on your local rules, she may not even have had to have taken any university-level mathematic course. This has always been one of my conerns with the whole advanced placement concept.

    Unfortunately at university students are often stuck with professors who, though qualified, are simply not good teachers. The advantage there is that as a paying customer, you have more lattitude to take another class or go to another program. In high school, you're more-or-less stuck with what you get.

    I disagree. Homeomorphic gave some reasonable advice and is speaking from the perspective of one who has been in a teaching position before. While it is important for the OP to exercise some judgement, in my experience most teachers are welcoming of feedback - particularly if it is honest and constructive. And even if the teacher is not appreciative of it, it would be very rare and unethical to, for example, reflect a negative reaction through marks. Mathematics courses tend to be very objectively quantifyable. You can't lower someone's grade if you don't like the style of their proofs.

    I think the best advice for the OP though is to focus on learning the material. Whether this teacher is jsut a bad teacher, or is unqualified but had to take the course because she was the only one available in that time slot, or the teacher's union requires her to teach it, or whatever doesn't really matter. It's unlikely that she'd going to get much better this time around. The good thing is that there are lots of resources for AP calculus out there, so if course notes aren't working they can be replaced with supplemental reading.
  8. Feb 27, 2015 #7
    I agree with pretty much all of that, particularly the second paragraph. I still do think that many teachers, especially if they are as incompetent and bad at teaching as the OP says, will not really take advice from what they will likely view as a kid. As experiences like this will be inevitable later on in college and such, I would focus on ignoring the teacher's faults and just teach yourself, using her as a secondary resource. And when I meant that she may not like the OP very much afterwards, I didn't mean in terms of grades, but in cooperativeness, as the OP's word choice seems to suggest that the teacher could very easily not give the small help she does provide (my interpretation of his/her post, I could be totally wrong).

    Thanks for giving a good, solid argument.
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