I was reading the Common Core Math Appendix A (attached) and found an interesting paragraph. I highlighted in red the part that I found particularly interesting.
The number of students taking high school mathematics in eighth grade has increased steadily for years. Part of this trend is the result of a concerted effort to get more students to take Calculus and other college-level mathematics courses in high school. Enrollment in both AP Statistics and AP Calculus, for example, have essentially doubled over the last decade (College Board, 2009). There is also powerful research showing that among academic factors, the strongest predictor of whether a student will earn a bachelor’s degree is the highest level of mathematics taken in high school (Adelman, 1999). A recent study completed by The College Board confirms this. Using data from 65,000 students enrolled in 110 colleges, students’ high school coursework was evaluated to determine which courses were closely associated with students’ successful performance in college. The study confirmed the importance of a rigorous curriculum throughout a students’ high school career. Among other conclusions, the study found that students who took more advanced courses, such as Pre-Calculus in the 11th grade or Calculus in 12th grade, were more successful in college. Students who took AP Calculus at any time during their high school careers were most successful (Wyatt & Wiley, 2010). And even as more students are enrolled in more demanding courses, it does not necessarily follow that there must be a corresponding decrease in engagement and success (Cooney & Bottoms, 2009, p. 2).
I think this relationship might be due more to correlation than causation. That is, while taking hard math classes in high school might help a student be more successful in college, a student that can persevere through a hard math class in high school probably has learned the perseverance skills—hard work, self-advocacy, determination, stick-with-it-ness, etc—necessary to overcome the challenges and setbacks that one often experiences in college. The conclusion that I take, therefore, is that it’s important for us to teach our students—explicitly—how to work through adversity and challenge. We need to talk them through, and give them strategies for, dealing with stress, managing a high workload, how to study, how to communicate with teachers/professors, etc.