Mathematics Options

Below are details and insights about the Math Department’s course offerings, guidelines, requirements, curriculum, and pathways.

Common Core
Common Core changes are now the major focus of the math department and all of our math teachers are embracing the new changes. We are currently introducing them in our Algebra, Geometry and Algebra II classes. In mathematics, the Sequoia Union High School District is planning a three-year rollout. We will formally teach Common Core Algebra next year, introduce Common Core Geometry in 2015-16 and finally Common Core Algebra II in 2016-2017. The district school board has decided that we will continue teaching our traditional structure instead of changing to an international pathway (Integrated Math). The biggest change in content is that statistics will be heavily emphasized and integrated into the Algebra and Algebra II classes. Students will be engaged more in solving open-ended real-world problems. Another major difference is that testing will be computer based and include free response questions requiring a written response rather than a simple multiple-choice answer as in the CST. Testing will take place during a student’s junior year. The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), a requirement for graduation, will continue to be first administered to students in the spring of their sophomore year.

M-A requires a minimum of two years of math to graduate. The UC system and the California state colleges require a minimum of three years of math, including Algebra II. Any student planning to attend a four-year college should successfully complete Algebra II with a C or higher. Students can improve their college eligibility by taking as much math as possible in the traditional sequence of Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-calculus, and Calculus. Students who have difficulty with Algebra I may decide to take Integrated Math, a bridge course, before moving onto Geometry.

Course Explanations
Algebra is considered the gateway course to college; without it, college success is unlikely. Algebra I is required for M-A graduation and is part of the math content of the California High School Exit Exam. Beyond that, algebra skills can significantly affect a student’s calculus performance throughout the year. Calculus teachers have a saying: “Many times when solving a calculus problem, the first step is calculus and the rest is all algebra.”

M-A has two options for the third year of math required by the California schools: AS Algebra II and Algebra II. The prerequisite for AS Algebra II is a minimum of a B in geometry, while Algebra II requires only a C in Geometry. AS Algebra II is intended primarily for sophomores and freshman who intend to complete calculus. Algebra II is intended for seniors and juniors who have found math challenging but who still want rigorous preparation for college math courses. Students should know these differences when enrolling in either AS or regular Algebra II. The math department strongly recommends that juniors and seniors enroll in Algebra II, not AS Algebra II. Juniors leaving Algebra II can take Statistics or Algebra II/trigonometry, which will prepare them for Pre-calculus or other math courses required in college.

Another option for juniors or seniors is AP Statistics or Statistics. AP statistics requires completion of or concurrent enrollment in Pre-calculus, while Statistics requires completion of or concurrent enrollment in Algebra II. The two courses differ in pacing and content. AP Statistics is a fun, hands-on course, but it moves at an intense pace, twice as fast as Statistics. Statistics allows students more time to practice and master the material. The Math Department encourages students to take two math courses concurrently so that they can complete Calculus and AP Statistics. The majority of students taking AP statistics are also enrolled in AP Calculus or Pre-calculus. At M-A, approxiamtely 160 students are taking AP Statistics or Statistics.

Students also have the option of taking BC Calculus or AB Calculus. The complicated difference between these courses is explained in detail at our annual January meeting of parents and students. Please note for future planning that BC calculus students participate in a four-week summer program that typically runs from the Monday after graduation until the week of the fourth of July, immediately following their pre-calculus course.

If you have questions about the Math Department offerings, please contact Jen Payne at