I wrote this letter in 2017 and revised it slightly to use this year. I posted it to an AP Calculus teacher page on social media and it has gotten so much positive feedback that I thought I would share with everyone. Please feel free use it in part or in whole.
The other day, I emailed a PDF of this letter to this year’s students. Here is what I wrote in the email, “Helllooo! Please read the attached letter. I will have a hard copy for you on the first day of school so you can bring it back signed. See you soon! NO NIGHTMARES. It’s gonna be hard but it’s gonna be worth it.”
And now for the letter:
Dear AP Calculus students and parents/guardians:
I am excited for another great year of AP Calculus! In this course, you will begin to learn about one of the most important, useful and influential bodies of mathematics: the mathematics of change. Whether you become an engineer, teacher, mathematician, nurse, musician, doctor, forest ranger, accountant, scientist, preacher, lawyer, writer, or something else wonderfully spectacular, you will no doubt bump into these ideas, either directly or tangentially. More importantly, taking an AP class is an opportunity to study material in depth with heavy emphasis on analytical thinking. It requires a meta-level of knowing and understanding. Thus, it is not only knowing (i.e. memorizing definitions for a matching quiz), but understanding HOW we know what we know. Far more important than learning calculus is learning how to learn, which involves learning how to formulate excellent questions, learning how to make connections between concepts, and learning how to prepare for large-scale tests and exams. These are transferable skills you will use and continue to improve on for the rest of your life.
Naturally, there are a few things about this class that will be different from your previous math courses.
- It’s gonna be harder. But you can do it and I am here to help. And, to help you help yourself, each calculus student will be required to be in my classroom for a minimum of one extra class period per week. This can happen before school (I get here every day at 7 am), after school on Thursdays (I stay until 4:30), during English comp “independent study day”, or after your last class of the day (for example, sixth period or seventh period). I will give more explicit directions for this in the first week of school.
- It’s gonna cost you: $20 for a workbook and around $90 for the exam. Neither of these fees are due right now. I will collect the $20 workbook fee in October and Mrs. Jackson in the counseling center will collect the AP fee in March. If you qualify for free or reduced lunch, Mrs. Jackson will help you complete a form for your AP exam and I can help you pay for your workbook.
- It’s gonna last. Based on 100s of previous students, it is very likely that you will come back to my classroom and tell me that what you learned in AP Calculus has stayed with you and that you have used everything we learned in AP Calculus in lots of other courses whether they be mathematics (duh), physics, biology, statistics, or even courses like economics and journalism.
A few more nuts and bolts before classes begin in August.
- Find your graphing calculator. Make sure the batteries are fresh. 30% of what we do will require a graphing calculator, so ensure that it is ready to go. Keep it in your backpack at all times.
- We will devote time to ACT prep. I need you to send me a screen shot of your best math ACT score with the name and date showing. You will get bonus points for your score and for any other scores (in accordance with a sliding scale). I will give more explicit details for this in the first week of school.
- There is no summer assignment, but I will expect you to be ready to go on day one! We will spend about 10 days (including quizzes and a test day) reviewing pre-cal and trig. It will be a good idea to have some facts memorized such as ln e = 1 and sin(pi/6) = 1/2. Maybe you should make some flashcards now.
I will have a hard copy of this letter for you on the first day of school. See you soon!
— Ms. Cornelius
I have read and understand this summer letter:
Student signature _____________________________________________ Date: _____________________
Parent / Guardian signature ___________________________________ Date: _____________________