High School Math: An extra year goes a long way

In theory, planning your math classes in high school sounds easy. Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II. You're done. Right? Not really. As most students find out, it's not that simple.


Many scenarios can be found depending on your student's love (or dare I say, hate) of mathematics and which colleges they plan to apply to.


First off, there are many more classes offered at our high schools than just the three that are required and second of all, it's better to have four years of high school math, no matter which way you look at it.


This article is just itching to start a debate, as the title says. Making four years of math mandatory to apply to CSU would not happen overnight and would require many high schools to re-evaluate their Math Departments and the number of math teachers they have. I'm not going to argue for or against CSUs decision but I do feel strongly about students taking four years of mathematics.


Let's back up a little bit. For my California students, yes, UCs and CSUs only require 3 years of mathematics. Having said that, I do ask my students to take 4 years of math because of several reasons. First, you'll be better off keeping math on your schedule in your senior year- it definitely makes your transcript stronger. Also, taking Calculus as a freshmen in college will be hard, but it'll be even harder if you had a gap year. If you take a math class in senior year, you'll retain it more than if you hadn't taken math (no matter which math class you choose to take).


Most students will fall into the following categories:

A) For many of my students, Algebra I and sometimes even Geometry, is taken even before they arrive at high school. In which case, they're probably strong enough in math to keep going and end up taking AP Calculus or AP Statistics. If you're child is in this category, they can slow down the pace by taking regular Calculus or regular Statistics. Both are great choices and taking an AP is not, and never is, necessary.


B) If your child just doesn't like math but is a high achiever and has a high GPA, I would still recommend taking four years of math just because it'll keep their options open when they apply to college. The more selective colleges want students who have challenged themselves in high school and have an all-rounded transcript and application.


C) For students who struggle with math and want nothing to do with it, it's worth digging deeper and figuring out whether the fourth year of math will be useful or not. It isn't required so they have a fair chance to get into CSUs and UCs without it but depending on what they plan to major in, mathematics might not be so easy to push to the side. Economics, Engineering, STEM, etc- they all require more years of mathematics. So the question is - Do you take it now or later?