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Calculus At A Distance: Bringing Advanced Mathematics To High School Students Through Distance Learning

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Bridging the Gap and Freshman Programs

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.302.1 - 14.302.11



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Paper Authors


Nelson Baker Georgia Institute of Technology

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Nelson Baker, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Nelson C. Baker is the Vice Provost for Distance Learning and Professional Education (DLPE) and a faculty member in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Nelson received his B.S. in civil engineering from Georgia Tech, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering from Carnegie Mellon. His work focuses on educational learning tools and student learning, faculty usage, and assessment of these techniques for instruction and learning.

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Marion Usselman Georgia Institute of Technology

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Marion Usselman, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Marion C. Usselman is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Marion received her B.A. in biophysics from the University of California, San Diego, and her Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University. She focuses on K-12 educational reform, university-K-12 partnerships, and equity issues in education.

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Thomas Morley Georgia Institute of Technology

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Thomas Morley, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Morley, is a CEISMC Professor of Mathematics at Georgia Tech, dividing his time between the School of Mathematics, and the Center for Education, Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing. He is the author of two books, and over 50 papers on pure and applied mathematics and education. He was recently involved in writing the new standards for Georgia's high school's Mathematics curriculum.

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Rick Clark Georgia Institute of Technology

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Rick Clark is the Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech. In this role, he directs the Institute’s recruitment and outreach efforts, directs the review of all undergraduate applications, and manages the admissions team. Rick works closely with Georgia Tech’s Athletic Association in review of all prospective student- athletes, as well as with the Alumni Association on national recruitment initiatives. A native of Atlanta, he earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.Ed. from Georgia State University. He, his wife, Amy, and their son AJ (who proudly wears GT apparel to assist in recruiting the nation’s finest students) live in Decatur. Prior to coming to Tech, Rick was on the admissions staff at Georgia State, The McCallie School and Wake Forest University.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Calculus at a Distance: Bringing Advanced Mathematics to High School Students through Distance Learning Abstract

The Georgia Institute of Technology, in collaboration with four local school systems, is teaching sophomore level calculus via distance learning to students who have exhausted the math offerings in their high school. Students enrolled in the program are highly successful in the course compared to their on-campus college peers. They also matriculate in large numbers to Georgia Tech, making it a highly effective recruitment tool for attracting the most academically advanced students in the state. This paper addresses the many benefits to the students and university in such a program. Further, it highlights some of the potential problem areas for both K-12 public school systems and universities when trying to forge similar partnerships.

Key Words: Distance Learning, university calculus, student recruiting, student retention

1. Program Overview and Objectives

Introductory calculus has become a staple in most high schools, primarily through the College Board’s Advance Placement (AP) Calculus program. Long considered the final high school mathematics class for advanced seniors, there is a growing trend for K-12 school systems to accelerate their mathematics course sequence so that the top academic students take AP Calculus during their junior, rather than their senior, year. While the pedagogical wisdom of this tendency to accelerate mathematics rather than to explore the earlier concepts in more depth can be debated, the reality is that mathematics curriculum reform movements have often promoted a math sequence in which the standard 8th grade math course is Algebra 1. If “on-grade-level” students are taking algebra in the 8th grade, then “advanced” and “gifted” students typically start the course a year earlier, namely in 7th grade, and sometimes even earlier. By their senior year in high school, these students have exhausted the mathematics course offerings of the high school. Few school systems can reliably guarantee that they will have a teacher capable of teaching Advanced Calculus, and even if they do, colleges and universities have no way to judge the caliber of the course.

In the fall of 2004, a conversation between a staff member from Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC--Georgia Tech’s K-12 outreach center), and a Fulton County School System curriculum coordinator revealed that the school system, with its 82,000 students, had a growing number of students taking AP Calculus during their junior or even sophomore year, and that the system was struggling to provide additional mathematics education in the senior year. While there were existing mechanisms for joint enrollment between the high schools and Georgia Tech, the transportation issues were too costly and time consuming to allow the students to physically attend Georgia Tech while still in high school, and the local junior colleges did not offer appropriate courses for this level of student. Providing instruction through the use of distance learning seemed to be a viable alternative.

Baker, N., & Usselman, M., & Morley, T., & Clark, R. (2009, June), Calculus At A Distance: Bringing Advanced Mathematics To High School Students Through Distance Learning Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5236

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