Should Calculus be Made Mandatory in High Schools

I hate to admit it, but calculus is an interesting subject. But, (and here’s the catch), it should not be made mandatory in high schools. There are so many reasons why, and some of them come from common sense.

First, many high school calculus teachers are not equipped to teach the class. It’s a sad thing to say or to think, but many math teachers only teach how to do the problems. They rarely explain why or how the problem is built, and what its uses are. Once the calculus students graduate from high school and possibly attend college, they will take calculus again, and find that there is a radically different approach to teaching and learning it. They will soon find that calculus depends heavily on proofs; many high school calculus courses currently do not, or rarely, teach proofs.

Also, the most practical level of math to take in high school is probably an algebra course (ending with algebra II). This course teaches several aspects of higher-level mathematics, but it is enough for a student not planning on majoring or going into a science or mathematic career. Calculus concepts are rarely presented in statewide standardized tests. They probably appear about 1% of the time on the SAT math subject tests.

Calculus is one of those subjects a person has to want to learn. If someone is naturally curious and inquisitive, always eager to learn something new, then calculus might be an appropriate subject to learn. However, for the most part of the general population, calculus is something beyond daily use. There is no point for a regular person to consider learning how to calculate the volume of a function rotated around the x-axis.

Many proponents of making calculus mandatory in high schools will say that calculus gets the brain going and makes the students “more intelligent.” However, if they are not ready for the level of difficulty of this math, then it certainly won’t make them “more intelligent.” If the students are going to have to relearn the course in college anyway, taking a brand new approach, then there really is no point in learning it in high school. Of course, these students will be able to have a head-start because they’ll have a background in calculus, but they must also relearn how to solve problems and think about the concepts of calculus.

Making calculus mandatory in high schools may make the students sound “more intelligent,” but the truth is that calculus is a difficult subject better suited for learning in higher education.