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Magazine

A Day in the Life of an AP Calculus Online Student....
Susan Gilleran, 11/18/2010

Susan Gilleran has been leading a highly successful and motivating AP Calculus class online with PA Homeschoolers for 5 years-- and she just keeps getting better at this! She has a BS and secondary teaching certificate in Mathematics from Wayne State University, and an MBA from Lawrence Technological University. She taught high school mathematics before moving to the business world at Ford Motor Company for 30 years where she was an Information Technology Manager. In this article, Susan lets you in on what a typical day for one of her online homeschool students might be like. Hope this helps you gain a greater sense of all the varied ways of learning that can be involved in one of our AP Online classes-- and we'll have similar 'Day in the Life' features on our other AP Online classes. Hope this helps you decide if this class-- or other of our AP Online classes for bright homeschoolers-- will be a good fit for your student. Check out Susan Gilleran's full course description at the link to our AP Online classes-- and also check out Susan's sample material on her course website (link below).

Let’s see, what should I do to start my day off today? I think I’ll sign on to the AP Calculus classroom site to see what Mrs. Gilleran has in store for us today. I’ll click on the ASSIGNMENTS page and then on the Comments for today. When I’m done reading the Comments I’ll check out the ASSIGNMENTS page to view the videos for today, if there are any, or visit any sites that might be posted.

I’ll download any relevant documents or a test if we’re having one. Then I’ll copy down the assignment for today and download the solutions to examples of the problems in today’s homework. That document also has the step by step solutions to all of the homework problems.

If there’s a test today I’ll take it then scan my results and send them to Mrs. Gilleran. If I was assigned a problem to post on the Discussion Board I’ll be sure to do that too. If I’ve got any questions I can post them to the Discussion Board or send a note to Mrs. G. That about does it for today, I guess I’ll go have some fun by diving into that homework.

Did I get a little carried away with that last line? This is Mrs. G talking now. While the assignments can be difficult students do tell me they enjoy the work and they often develop a new found love of math as a result of taking this course. It’s a lot of work but an adventure worth taking.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of what goes on in AP Calculus from my viewpoint:

Daily routine - I post Comments on my classroom site on a daily basis. The students are expected to sign onto the site every day and access a Current Assignments page where they pick up their assignment and click on my Comments in which I tell them what’s happening that day. I may go over a problem from their assignment or a test they’ve taken or the subject for that day. My Comments range from 2-3 pages up to 7-8 pages. Along with the assignment I periodically post videos of a teacher going through the working of a problem or an interesting site to visit or a helpful document to download. Periodically I add a "tidbit" to the daily Comments of such subjects as Fractals, the biography of a mathematician, a more in-depth explanation of the irrational number e, a different slant on what integration is, etc.

I’ve had students who had weekly commitments on a particular day of the week. They found it possible to keep up by doing the work on the preceding or following day. If we have a test on the day they have a commitment they can take the test the following day. There’s usually a work-around when the students and I put our heads together to solve a problem.

Posting of assignments - I post two weeks of assignments at a time so the student can work ahead of schedule if they like.

Discussion Board - There is a Discussion Board where the students occasionally post their solutions to problems or ask questions of each other or me.

Email Correspondence - Primarily they ask questions through email to me and that’s how I respond to them. I always respond to their questions with a detailed explanation of the problem or topic. If they still don't understand it, I'll go over it again.

Tests - They download tests from the classroom site and scan their results and send them to me via an email attachment. I go through their solutions thoroughly and give partial credit for a wrong answer. I give them a detailed Answer Key with each test so they can compare their wrong answer to the correct one.

Homework - They periodically scan homework assignments and send them to me. I provide a downloadable PDF file each day with step by step solutions to examples of each problem in the assignment as well as step by step solutions to every problem in the assignment.

That should give you an idea of what goes on during the day in the life of an AP Calculus student. If you’d like to visit my web site the classroom site is password protected but there is a sample Assignments Page that is accessible from the home page. The web site is located at www.arsmathematicaonline.com. Should you have any questions that weren’t addressed in this article feel free to contact me at sgillera@mac.com.

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