Monday, July 29, 2013

Precalculus Brainstorm

I was brainstorming for my Precalc class this morning, and I realized that my perception of the Precalc topics has changed since I began teaching IB two years ago! The IB equivalent of this course heavily emphasizes the interconnectedness in applying them, which has in turn changed the way I wish to organize my Precalc class next year. I'd like to organize my Precalc class this year as a sequence of topics that each arises naturally from the previous topic, with the entire course anchored upon modeling as the core skill and purpose for building further functional knowledge.

See flow chart below. (The bold parts are what I think are the more important concepts from the course.) If my new colleagues would support my decision in organizing my course this way, then I hope to start with sequences as a way of re-introducing linear, quadratic, and exponential forms. The kids will see, for example, that if you use summation formulas to capture the sum of second differences, then the resulting n-th element will have a quadratic form in terms of n. At the end of those basic functions re-introduction, my hope is that the kids can do a written project analyzing triangular and stellar numbers, similar to the old IB portfolio task from a few years back. (I've misplaced that prompt now, so I'll have to create one that is similar.)

Then, using their knowledge of these basic functional forms as a basis, we will examine the graphs formed by these basic forms and use that to re-introduce the core concept of transformations. We will learn the other functional types only as necessitated by modeling of different types of data, so that the kids can always remember the importance of contextual analysis and interpretation. Eventually, at the end of the course, each student will do two modeling projects: 

1. a project using GeoGebra or Desmos in order to create a picture with functions and to practice basic functions modeling and specifying domain restrictions. 

2. a real-world modeling project of their choice, in order to practice asymptotic analysis and written communication. In this final project, we can add additional requirements such as analyzing the rates of change, in order to preview some introductory concepts from Calculus.

Thoughts? Do you think this organization would make sense to students?


  1. I'll be teaching precalculus again for the first time in a few years and am looking to revamp my curriculum now that I've got some more teaching experience under my belt and have started using modeling in my chemistry classes. I think your proposed organization is intriguing; what resources do you use? Right now all I've got to work with (I'm changing schools) is Larson's Precalculus with Limits, but I don't mind making my own materials.

  2. Hi Hailey! I typically pull together my own materials. I would be happy to share them as the year unfolds, and I would love to see what you come up with as well!

    Do you have a blog where I can keep track of your work? I can add you to my RSS reader, since I'm not good about keeping up with other sources of info. xox