By Jeffrey Mu ’24
As the course selections close for this year, many students are pressured with the task of finding courses that simultaneously demonstrate their attempt at a challenging class, as well as leaving out time for themselves. One class in particular, Multivariable Calculus is concluding this year, affecting incoming juniors and future students at Bell. Without this class, students finished with Calculus BC lose this option, instead rerouting to AP Statistics or Data Analysis. This week, we talked to Mr. Salgaonkar, who teaches Multivariable about his experiences teaching the class as well as Ms. Philips about the future of the course and the direction of the math department.
Mr. Salgaonkar – Algebra 2 Honors, AP Statistics & Multivariable Calculus Instructor
Q. Hi Mr. Salgaonkar, how are you?
A. I’m doing fine, how about you?
Q. I’m doing great! So about the math department, is multivariable calculus going to be concluded next year?
A. That’s the plan, yes.
Q. Why is that?
A. It’s due to a lot of different factors. From the math department standpoint, we want everyone to have the same opportunities, no matter which math course they are placed into as a freshman. As of right now, the way it works is that if they’re not placed in pre-calculus honors or algebra two honors, multivariable calculus is simply inaccessible. It’s more of an equity thing than anything else. I do think high level mathematics should be offered here, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be calculus based. There’s a huge set of math that most high school students are not exposed to that would also be just as challenging and fun. Of course multivariable does this, but the prerequisites are simply too much, and I think the space could be more effectively used.
Q. So the course is being removed because it’s barred for all students not talking algebra two honors or pre-calculus?
A. Yeah, so to really do well in multivariable you need to have a very strong foundation in AP Calculus BC, and most seniors take BC, which means they cannot take multi the next year here at Bell. In order to take the course, you need to be a sophomore or junior in BC, and have passed the prerequisites, which is not possible for somebody who gets placed in geometry or algebra one.
Q. Is the math department considering any alternatives to multivariable calculus?
A. I loved probability and statistics in my school years, as well as a course called mathematical finance, which was an eye-opening course for me. It talked about how stocks would go up and down (operating in an encyclical manner), and the math associated with it is what the math department would want to go towards. Finance in math, especially, is an extremely relevant math course to take if any student would like to do a business or finance major, and because multivariable is there right now, students don’t have the option to take the course.
Q. Most students would be able to take these types of courses with multivariable being gone, right?
A. Right, so the data science class that I’m speculating about would be a class that requires algebra two prerequisites, and it has a very low floor and a high ceiling. Just about anybody can enroll in it, and they can get a lot out of it. This course would also combine design, computer programming, and even computer science, so students could have this great alternative. On the other hand, with multivariable you’re focusing on procedure and details, which can often be very rigid and for some students, difficult. Data science allows you to have much more creative output because the same set of data can be analyzed in a bunch of unique ways. It’s applicable to real life, and you can map out nuances of anything at a level that people don’t usually know. Beyond next year, I would love to see another class like this come into place. We’ve been brainstorming about which classes we wanted to offer, and we haven’t come to a consensus yet, but I would love to see if we could add some of those other courses.
Q. Sounds great! And last thing, there’s been quite a few rumors going around that you’re leaving the schools, so I was wondering, if you wouldn’t mind if you would be able to put those to rest.
A. Of course! I don’t know why, but every year there’s rumors surrounding me leaving the school. My plan is not to leave this year, and as for the classes I’m teaching next year, I have no idea. We haven’t been surveyed yet about the classes we would be interested in teaching, or anything like that. The way that the process works is that we get a survey that lists the courses that we can teach, and the department chair works in tandem with the principal of instruction to create a list of who is teaching which course. I currently teach AP Statistics, algebra two honors and multivariable, but that can also change depending on what other teachers want to teach.
Q. Thank you!
Last, we asked Ms. Philips, who is the head of the Math Department here at Bell about the math department’s direction. She let us more about the thought process of the mathematics department and their choices for math courses. “Next year will be our last year offering Multivariable Calculus at Bellarmine… [T]his course has been serving very few students and our staffing can no longer accommodate this. We are investigating adding a course that will serve a broad range of students as it will not require calculus as a prerequisite. One of the courses we are strongly considering is Data Science. It’s now being recommended nationwide by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the state of California that all students take Data Science and/or Statistics in high school… [W]e want to serve the most students possible while keeping current with the times. [T]his video best encapsulates the goals of the course.”
So while Multivariable Calculus is a great addition to the school, other additional courses being considered as part of Bell’s math courses are more relevant to those who don’t decide to take calculus during their high school career. “We value Calculus at Bellarmine as we love and appreciate the subject, [but] Multivariable Calculus is a second-year college level course and not necessary to take in high school. We are happy to have offered this opportunity… and now we have chosen to pursue a path that will meet the needs of a broader range of students.”
And finally, with the removal of Multivariable Calculus other alternative courses can be considered for students to attend, “[s]ome of which require Calculus, and some do not (e.g. Number Theory, Linear Algebra, Abstract Algebra, Numerical Analysis, Topology, Differential Equations, etc). Our department would love to offer all of these courses, however, there is a limit to what we can offer and we need to choose what we feel serves the needs of most students in alignment with the mission of our school. Data Science also offers a social justice component which we are excited about incorporating into our mathematics curriculum.”
So there we have it folks! Bellarmine’s transition away from Multivariable into other math courses widely offered can come as a surprise for some, and maybe even a welcome one. The addition of courses like data science or mathematical finance would not only give students an upper hand in those fields, but would benefit them tremendously as they continue their highschool paths. If you would like to know more about the reasoning process or any alternative math courses coming up, please feel free to reach out to Ms. Philips or Mr. Salgaonkar for any additional information.