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AP Calc AB Syllabus

AP Calculus AB is a fast-paced, rigorous, college-level course designed to teach you calculus and to prepare you for the AP test in May. Since AP courses can lead to college credit when coupled with high test scores, the curriculum and expectations are extremely challenging.


AP courses require dedication and focus on the part of the student - you are expected to take responsibility for your learning. I will provide guidance, instruction, resources, and support, but if you're going to learn the material and be ready for the test you must be prepared to work very hard, perhaps harder than you’ve ever worked before.

To be successful in calculus, you must have mastered algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Conceptually, calculus is remarkably elegant and simple. Calculus is used to translate real world problems into useful mathematical forms. Once this is done, most of your work will involve all the math you’ve learned previously.

The college board specifies the prerequisites for this course as follows:

Before studying calculus, all students should complete the equivalent of four years of secondary mathematics designed for college-bound students: courses that should prepare them with a strong foundation in reasoning with algebraic symbols and working with algebraic structures. Prospective calculus students should take courses in which they study algebra, geometry, trigonometry, analytic geometry, and elementary functions. These functions include linear, polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, inverse trigonometric, and piecewise-defined functions. In particular, before studying calculus, students must be familiar with the properties of functions, the composition of functions, the algebra of functions, and the graphs of functions.

Students must also understand the language of functions (domain and range, odd and even, periodic, symmetry, zeros, intercepts, and descriptors such as increasing and decreasing). Students should also know how the sine and cosine functions are defined from the unit circle and know the values of the trigonometric functions at the numbers 0, pi/6, pi/4, pi/3, pi/2,  and their multiples.


You will be assessed in two different ways. The first is via traditional tests, and the second uses something called “Standards Based Grading”.  


Tests are designed to mimic word problems from the AP test and are typically much harder than quizzes. Tests are used to assess a student’s depth of understanding and their ability to apply analysis and multiple calculus concepts to solve very challenging problems. Tests will be given at the end of every chapter and may or may not allow the use of a calculator. There may be two tests for long chapters.

Standards Based Grading (SBG)

With SBG the course material is broken up into a number of standards which discretely define what the student is able to consistently demonstrate as evidence of learning. The student's work is evaluated against each of the standards and assigned a score for each standard.

Standards are intended to assess the student’s understanding of fundamental pre-calculus concepts and the student’s ability to apply the fundamental computational processes associated with the standard.

Standards are graded on a scale of 3 (low) to 6 (high), defined as follows.

6 (Competent) =  The standard was correctly applied and the answer is correct.

5 (Satisfactory) = The standard was correctly applied but there was a simple arithmetic error.

4 (Developing)  =  The standard was not correctly applied or there was an analysis or non-trivial mathematical error (e.g. algebra).

3 (Weak) =  Little or no meaningful understanding or work was done or attempted.

Students are assessed frequently on the standards via quizzes and the standards scores are averaged to provide a standards grade. An average of 5 is considered to be satisfactory, in that the student can generally apply the standard correctly but may occasionally make computational errors.
Standards based grading provides a more detailed report of the student’s understanding. The ID for the standard is the same as the unit in the textbook where that standard's material is introduced. Students can scan their standards to determine which concepts they understand well and which which concepts they need to work on. 

For example, the progress report section below shows the student should focus on standard 1.4 first to improve their grade (it is the lowest). Since the standard number is the same as the chapter and unit in the textbook where the standard is discussed, the student should refer to chapter 1.4 for further study and practice. 

1.2 Can simplify expressions using properties of exponents 6
1.3 Can simplify expressions involving factoring and expanding 5.6
1.4 Can combine and simplify rational expressions 4.0
1.5 Can solve equations involving exponents, algebraic expressions, and rational expressions. 4.3

Quizzes are used to assess standards and are administered on Tuesdays and block days. They should take no more than ten minutes and will be handed out at the beginning of class. The goal of the pop quizzes is to make sure students are keeping up with the course schedule.

Standards will be assessed multiple times and students are free to re-assess developing or deficient standards to improve their grades. Re-assessments are allowed at any time after the first assessment of a standard.


Homework is considered practice and students are expected to attempt the homework as a studying tool. I will post suggested problems for every unit. Students should do homework problems to assess their own understanding and use problems as a basis for framing questions about the material when seeking help from me or other students in the class. Whether you turn in homework depends on your overall grade in the class as shown in the table below.

85%-100%    Homework not turned in.

80%-84%      Khan Academy skills are tracked.

0%-79%        Will ask students to show me their homework.


You may ask to reassess a standard to improve your grade. The following rules apply to reassessments.
  1. You may only reassess a standard where your performance is less than 5.5 (approximately 79%).
  2. You may only request one reassessment per class per day.
  3. A reassessment form must be completely filled out and approved by Mr. Joshi
  4. Reassessments only apply to the current semester - they can't improve grades for previous semesters.
  5. Reassessments can be done before school, during class, and during lunch at Mr. Joshi's convenience.
  6. No reassessments will be allowed the week containing the end of a quarter or semester.

In math classes, work builds on previous standards. If you have evidence of an earlier standard being met in the course of subsequent work, you may attach that work as evidence. For example, successfully executing the chain rule requires mastery of simple derivatives. If you are deficient in simple derivatives, but subsequently test as competent in using the chain rule, you can ask that your assessment in simple derivatives be re-evaluated, based on your work for the chain rule. In these circumstances, your subsequent work must be competent or better to get credit for the earlier standard.

Reassessments will be handled on a first-come, first-served bases at my convenience. Note, that I get especially busy near the end of the quarter and semester, as grades come due. I simply may not have time to reassess you as the end of the quarter and semester approach, so you should reassess earlier than later. Don't wait until the last minute! Your choice to procrastinate on your reassessments does not constitute an emergency on my part.
The assessment form is attached below.

Course Grades

The standards for a chapter are averaged and the result is divided by 7. Since the maximum score for a standard is 6, the maximum standards grade for a chapter is 82%.  This means the highest grade a student can achieve via standards alone is a low B. This is appropriate since the standards assess breadth of understanding only and the standards assessments are typically simpler problems testing calculus concepts in isolation. Each chapter is assigned a standards grade in this fashion.

Tests assess the student's depth of understanding. The student’s raw test score is curved to reflect the more challenging nature of the tests. No tests will be dropped.

For each chapter students receive the higher of their standards grade or their test grade. For example, if the student’s standards average was 5.6, their standards grade would be 5.6/7 or 80%. If they earned an adjusted test grade of 84%, their chapter grade would be 84%. If they earned an adjusted test grade of 72%, their chapter grade would be 80% based on their standards.

There are only 4 grades recorded per semester.

Standards make it reasonably easy for a student to pass AP calculus. Test scores allow a student to do well in AP calculus.

Absences and Late Work

We have very little time and a lot of material to cover for the AP test. We will be moving at a fast pace and students can’t afford to miss class since we will often spend only one day on a new concept. Quizzes are given at the beginning of class, so it is imperative that students arrive on time.

It is the student's responsibility, not mine, to determine if any quizzes, activities, or tests were missed. Students should ask their tablemates what was missed and then speak to me about making up the quiz, test, or activity.

Supplies and Materials Needed

The following minimum supplies are required for the class.

  • A scientific graphing calculator
  • Standard #2 pencils and erasers
  • At least 1 each of black, blue, green, and red pens.
  • Any style of notebook the student prefers
  • Whiteboard markers for flex area