Students drop from honors to on-level precalculus

Katie Campbell

More stories from Katie Campbell


Illustration by Sophia Meytin

A student struggles to solve an equation regarding limits and end behaviours. Honors Precalculus is one of the most notorious courses high schoolers encounter. “My teacher Ms. Bullock, she was saying that in week 5, she got like 25 new students. Our class is pretty crowded, and a lot of them have switched out from my previous math class,” junior Tyler McClellan said.

Staring blankly at the paper in front of her, junior Tyler McClellan had reached her limit— literally. On a timed quiz in her fourth period Honors Precalculus class, she was struggling to graph limits and end behaviors. Like other students taking the course, McClellan realized that it would be in her best interest to drop from honors to on-level Precalculus.

Both teachers and students admit that Honors Precalculus is one of the most demanding classes WJ has to offer.

“The difference in difficulty between regular and honors is greater than in previous math courses. Honors Precalculus is more rigorous and there are entire topics and units that are not covered in Precalculus. For example sequences and series, polar functions and matrices,” math resource teacher John Chase said.

Students are often shocked to discover that the course requires them to study and practice significantly more than they had in previous years.

“Someone might suggest making Honors Precalculus easier, but we feel it would be a disservice to students if they entered AP Calculus or BC unprepared. AP Calculus is challenging, and our goal is to ensure that students are ready for the challenge,” Chase said.

Despite its level of difficulty, math teachers believe that perseverance reaps substantial results, and they encourage students to continue taking the course.

“Students are often scared when they get a B or C on their first quiz and want to drop the class, but what they don’t realize is that if they were to stick it out, they would settle into a routine and end up doing just fine,” Chase said.

On the other hand, students such as McClellan feel that their best option is to switch.

“I dropped out because my honors pre-calc teacher was not connecting with me. I was doing fine in class and on the homework, and then I got to the quizzes and I didn’t understand anything going on, and I got really bad grades on them. So I eventually decided to switch out in like week 4 into an on-level precalc class,” McClellan said.

In reaction to the mass honors drop-outs, significant steps have been taken to make up for the growing on-level course.

“So they looked at the numbers and decided, ‘Yes, we would like to create another on-level precalculus course,’ but with teacher staffing, you can’t just say, ‘Hey, you’re gonna teach another class.’ One class has to close in order for another class to open. Since the numbers in Honors Precalculus were going down, they closed one of those classes in order to open an on-level precalculus class,” math teacher Michelle Thoms said.

Regardless of the mass course-dropping this year, instructors have stayed positive in the midst of the chaos, while students are determined to maintain passing grades for the first quarter of Precalculus.

“Math is like scaling a mountain. It’s hard, but there are beautiful vistas that await those willing to make the climb,” Chase said.