I have been hearing that the US is behind the world in math and science for years now, but today I read in the Washington Post that the demand for multivariable calculus in high school is growing.
More than 500 students in the Montgomery and Fairfax school systems, the region’s two largest, are taking multivariable calculus, a course traditionally taken by math majors in their second year of college — at least in the old days. That means the students have a full year of college-level calculus under their belt before they leave high school.
The drive seems to related to two effects. One is pushing algebra down into the seventh and eighth grades. This puts students on a track to finish AP calculus in their junior year. A good student who will take a technical major in college is well advised to not take off a full year from math, so what should they take? The other effect is the competition for college admissions. If so many people are taking calculus how can the best students stand out?
I do worry where they will find the instructors for these classes. If the teacher is not up to the task, the students might waste a year or get turned off.
When the school tapped Moriarty to teach the new course last year, he had to search his basement to find notes he took on multivariable calculus as a sophomore in college almost 30 years ago.