Summer math courses should not be accepted for course credit

April 1, 2022 — by Shaan Sridhar
Photo by Ariel Zhou
Skipping classes at summer programs leads to unprepared students and unnecessary stress

Every year, hundreds of students take courses outside of the school. There are many legitimate reasons for this: Some courses aren’t offered at the school and there are students who benefit from the additional enrichment.

But a large portion of students take outside classes with the intention of “skipping” a class on campus. In other words, students take a condensed course for credit during the summer, allowing them to advance to the next level when the school year begins — effectively skipping a course.

Most often, this choice is made to improve a student’s transcript: Students think that if they take harder math classes, colleges will be more likely to accept them. This idea is both false and dangerous. Given the academic pressure students face, the school should prevent students from sacrificing instruction to take higher level classes and ban them from taking core pathway classes outside of school.

There’s no reason students should feel pressured to advance to classes they aren’t prepared for. Students should only take classes they are capable of succeeding in, and the school should not allow them to go into a class they’re not equipped for.

This issue is most commonly seen in the math department. Countless students have enrolled in Archbishop Mitty’s summer geometry program. This allows them to skip the course and take Algebra 2 or Algebra 2 Honors their freshman year. 

In 2020, 58 incoming freshmen took summer math courses for credit outside of school. Assuming that these students took classes offered at the school, the data means that about two classes’ worth of freshmen skipped a level of math.

Although the summer courses are accredited, the material is taught too quickly and in not enough depth. The result shows up later in SHS math classrooms. 

Says math teacher Kelly Frangieh: “Geometry is the first time [students] get introduced to trigonometry. So, when you have them in Algebra 2, they’re doing fine. But then suddenly you hit the trigonometry unit and they haven’t seen a basic right triangle because geometry in the summer is only six weeks.”

Frangieh added that it’s nearly “impossible” to learn a course’s full material over the summer, and recommended against students taking summer math courses.

There’s no need for a student to skip a math class, unless they are way above their current level (in that case, teachers can work with guidance counselors). For the rest of the students, the school should simply say “No, you cannot advance with summer courses.”

This poses a problem with other courses. If math courses can’t be placed on students’ transcripts, what about other courses? 

I took AP Macroeconomics online at APEX Learning Virtual School my freshman year. Other students have taken History of Rock ‘n’ Roll or Multivariable Calculus, both of which are not offered on campus. But this can be resolved by making the restriction apply solely to core pathways courses. In other words, you cannot take Geometry or English 10 outside of school, but you can take other classes like AP Economics and electives like AP Biology.

By doing this, the core classes — so named because they’re the most crucial portions of a student’s instruction — must be taken as a full-length in-school course, ensuring the class is high quality and students properly understand the material.

Allowing students to be unprepared for their courses will ultimately cause them to become stressed and anxious in a class that is too difficult for them, and consequently results in a lack of foundation for future classes. Our math system for too long has not added up; it’s time to subtract the element that causes many of the problems in later grades.

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