Malibu High Seniors Cope with Loss of Advanced Calculus

Malibu High School

Just over a month into their senior year, advanced math students from Malibu High School (MHS) are finding ways to cope with the discontinuation of the highest-level math class, calculus D/E.

Beginning in sixth grade, Malibu students enter a pathway that leads to a prestigious advanced math course — calculus D/E. For the first time in two decades, that class no longer exists.

Seven MHS seniors discovered just before their last year of high school that the math class they had been striving for would not be offered anymore at Malibu High. Calculus D/E, a class that has been the capstone for all accelerated math students for the last 20 years, was canceled for the 2016-17 school year. 

“Calc D/E was promised to be offered to everyone who could handle the math pathway since sixth grade. We were told our end goal would eventually be multivariable calculus,” MHS senior Izzy Putterman explained. “However, due to funding cuts in the district, [Principal Brandon Gallagher] decided to remove calc D/E from the master schedule and only tell us seven, who were on the pathway, one week before summer break.”

While disappointing, the discontinuation has also brought its benefits to the local school. 

“There are pros and cons to each side. As the capstone course, calc DE, there is no AP test; therefore, this course does not have the possibility of resulting in college credit,” MHS Math Department Chair Henry Wadsworth explained. “Therefore, moving the course off campus [by having students enroll in community colleges] allows students to receive college credit where before they were not able to. In this regard, it is a good decision.

“It also gives kids the flexibility to take other college classes — not just multivariable calculus — if they have other interests in other fields,” he added.

Some students on the advanced track agreed with Wadsworth that canceling the class brought more positive to the rest of the student body, but said the administration could have worked harder to take into account those advanced students.

“Canceling the class was a good choice because it benefited many students,” Tommy Laubender said. “All that could have been done better was to tell us earlier and to find an alternative that would have worked for us.”

Conor Hunter agreed.

“I can totally understand how much of a waste of budgeting it is to have a teacher take a whole period out of their day to teach less than 10 students a class that is not even considered AP — I think offering AP statistics is a great substitute,” Hunter said.

Along with Putterman, Laubender and Hunter, Jaime Le, Sam Burton, Nico Neven and Mckinley Souder were all faced with a choice with how to continue their math pursuits outside of MHS. Some of the options for these students including attending local community colleges (such as Santa Monica College and Moorpark), taking an online course through a four-year university or enrolling in the brand new AP statistics course at Malibu High School. 

“We [Laubender, Souder, Hunter and Neven] finally found a Moorpark class that we could take and attended one class — before finding out that we would have to retake the class in college regardless if we took it at a community college, and that it didn’t look any better on a college application to take the less complicated AP stats class,” Laubender stated. “We finally settled on just taking AP stats.”

“It’s just annoying, because I’ll forget a majority of my calc knowledge due to not practicing it for a year,” Neven added. “Now, in college, it’s going to be hard to start at a high level calculus course — which probably forces me to retake my calc classes.”

Putterman and Burton decided to take a multivariable calculus class through Stanford Pre-Collegiate studies program, which costs close to $3,000 and is taken online. 

“For me, the solution was to take a similar course online, which is working out well,” Burton said.

But, he added, Malibu’s priorities are not focused on science and technology.

“Malibu High is definitely more of an artsy school,” Burton said. “We seem to spend more on art supplies and photography equipment then we do on STEM resources, so it’s important that the school keeps advanced math as an option to students interested in engineering and sciences-based careers.”

Le decided to focus on his own independent study and will attempt to learn the course on his own. 

“I was fortunate enough to be able to procure a calculus textbook from Pepperdine and a schedule of what the topics they would be covering and when, along with a list of problems to do from each section,” Le said.

While the students acknowledge the value of adding AP statistics, many feel that keeping a calc D/E class was essential to the Malibu High STEM program and the pride in advanced academics at the school.

“It gives us pride that our small school could give a class that many other high schools cannot, and it allows students who are gifted in math to excel to where they belong rather than taking classes that they are not interested in or are not challenging,” Souder remarked.

Classmates agreed.

“It brings a sense of prestige and honor to this school,” Neven said. “To the kids who worked very hard for six-plus years to take this class, it’s very disappointing when MHS can’t deliver.” 

As the seven seniors learn to cope with the discontinuation of the class, they focus on their future college pursuits and finishing their last year at Malibu High.

“This [discontinuation] isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think Malibu High needs to readdress the need for more STEM subjects,” Burton concluded.