Pre-Calculus is The Easiest Class Even Though Tito Doesn’t Perform Well in It.
Pre-Calculus: one of the most ghastly names ever known to a high school student’s GPA. From the sophomore years, rumors are spread about the workload that is inbound, and when the time finally comes to take the class, many people take the stance of a fixed mindset— fearing the name that the class has acquired. While many people might think that Pre-Calculus is a difficult topic for students that do not possess a natural mathematical ability, it may come to the surprise of many that it can actually be among the easiest. It’s just a matter of understanding what the class needs most from its students. In this case, a high school's Pre-Calculus class could be considered the least difficult class. It does not challenge any problem-solving situations but rather functions on basic Algebra fundamentals and memorization; fundamentals that were already taught to the students.
So why is it that many people think it such a hard subject? Why is it that on average the grades of students enrolled in that class compares to be lower than the grade of other classes? The answer resides not in its material or teachers or schedule; but rather on the organizational structure of the subject. Reports from PBS about “Misunderstood Minds” regarding Mathematics touch upon many different factors ranging from: organizational difficulties and output difficulties, to computational and attention difficulties. Keyword: attention. This can be said about any class and that is, if a student has attention difficulties, then learning the material becomes a greater struggle. While it is true that individuals can be predisposed with natural ability or lack thereof, it is the very philosophy of many math teachers that everything can be learned as long as the appropriate amount of effort is put in. This effort translates into how much studying an individual commits themselves to. However, it is also the very same reason as to why the issue becomes split into two groups.
The structure of a standard high school Pre-Calculus class involves: material that is taught in class, homework/projects that are assigned, scheduled exams, and a baseline expectation for outside of class studying. While all of this may seem alright, the concern is how the material which is being taught is structured. See, Pre-Calculus is not the same as Physics. It embodies a math-procedures nature; where the core of the course involves testing the memorization of various units. It is about taking an input and generating an output using random numbers, and there are few times when an individual problem is applied to outside elements. On the other hand, Physics is similar to math-problem-solving, where students invest a larger amount of time focusing on the reasons why certain number values exist and apply their knowledge to solving scenarios rather than endless computation. In this sense, memorization of Pre-Calculus holds the impression of mattering more than abstract thinking or strategizing. While many math teachers disagree, it is the unfortunate nature of the subject’s structure. Students become too invested in memorizing the various things that are being taught as to perform well on exams and projects. In reality the class becomes a brainless computational ladder where all that someone needs to succeed on assignments, is either good memory, or a good ability to study.
Here is where the confusion is best illustrated. The majority of the student population has to challenge itself because in many cases, individuals have not yet fully developed their ability to study or personalized strategies of memorization. It is the truth that many times people struggle, not because of the difficulty in the math, as it does not really exceed Algebra 2, but rather on figuring out what that damn formula was or what were the set of steps needed for a solution. However, just because there is this specific element that many find difficult, the solution for it is very straight forward. Pre-Calculus is an easy subject because it is purely dependent on already learned material and the choice of whether to study or not. The concepts are not mentally mind-blowing or transcendental, they just require memorization. Therefore, because really there is only one thing that students need to do in order to succeed, the path one must take to success is much shorter compared to other subjects like English or History: where thorough reflection is a must. It is not difficult to repeatedly read the same numbers out loud until they remain ingrained in the brain, it’s just something that many people prefer to not do. That is why then in the future those same people struggle, and confuse the difficulty of Pre-Calculus with the difficulty of studying.As stated before, due to the organization of the course, classes remain split between groups of students. Those who have an easy time memorizing, and those who do not. Those who are curious of the math, and those who just want a good grade. When much material must be taught in a year's time, less sessions can be spent on discussing real-world applications or analyzing scenarios from which math derives. In other words, a good Pre-Calculus grade depends on how well individuals memorize material, and therefore by not requiring unique thought, does not truly challenge a mind. However, many people wish there was a course that was more laid-back and did not rush through unit after unit. Among this group of people are teachers who wish for their students to truly understand the deeper meaning of math. As stated by an 11th grade math teacher on The Atlantic: “Overreliance on memorization is like most problems in education: systemic. One teacher can't topple the tyrant's statue alone. But she can begin to chip away at the base.” It is a shame that the current situation makes it more difficult for people to involve themselves into deeper levels of mathematical understanding. By offering rewards to “efficient students” that memorize material 10 minutes before class only to forget it 10 minutes after, means that a robotic strategy is adopted. Nonetheless, this is how the system currently functions, and it is more true for Pre-Calculus than it is for other subjects. Due to its simple solution, Pre-Calculus technically qualifies as the easiest class. The solution is to study.