For decades, calculus has been the preeminent hallmark of intelligence and academic rigor used by selective colleges as a gatekeeper in admissions. The resulting fixation on calculus exacerbates education inequities and needlessly pressures students to rush through secondary math curriculum.
Calculating the Odds: Counselor Views on Math Coursetaking and College Admissions—a new report by Just Equations, in partnership with National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)—examines how high school counselors interpret admissions offices’ expectations, driving their advice to students that they maximize calculus opportunities.
As long as calculus remains overvalued in college admission, students without access to it can be at a disadvantage in the college application process. This report underscores this inequitable dynamic by highlighting the support and guidance about math course selection from counselors at schools with an emphasis on college planning. Anderson and Burdman make a compelling case for strategies to slow the “race to calculus” and empower students in their math pathways.
“It is deeply problematic that college admission offices—many of which are entirely unaware of how actual math content, sequencing, programs work—use calculus as a benchmark for college admission. It’s one of the most frustrating things about the process.”
— high school counselor
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