*By LAURA HAMMACK, guest columnist*

On the first day of school during third period, there was a birthday party complete with cake and candles in Mrs. Burton’s classroom at Brown County High School. In that moment, we celebrated the birth of a new class, AP Calculus BC.

While our district has always been proud to offer the first section of AP Calculus AB, we have never provided the second section in our course offerings. We couldn’t be more excited about adding this option to our mathematics course of study.

Both AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC are year-long college equivalent courses that allow students who pass the subsequent AP examination with a “3”, “4” or “5” to transfer this credit to the student’s chosen post-secondary institution. As you can imagine, graduating from Brown County High School with two years of college level credit in AP Calculus positions students for success in their chosen course of study.

Offering this new course is the result of incredibly hard work displayed on behalf of the students and their teacher. Mrs. Burton worked with the BCHS administration to initially offer a mathematics course of study that included Calculus BC beginning with the current ninth-graders. Hearing that Calculus BC was ultimately an option, the students who are currently the inaugural members of this class asked Mrs. Burton if they could “double up” on math courses so that they could take the course their senior year.

Excited about the challenge, Mrs. Burton worked with the students and their guidance counselors on ways to double up math classes so that they had the space in their schedules to take AP Calculus AB as a junior (traditionally a senior level class) and AP Calculus BC as a senior. This was no easy task, as these are students who are already taking extremely rigorous course loads including other AP and honors classes.

Seven students evidenced the work ethic, intellect and love of mathematics to position themselves to take AP Calculus BC as seniors. And it needs to be noted that this very same group of students also made a goal for themselves to earn at least a “3” on the AP Calculus AB examination, which is passing. Well, these students not only met their goal, they all exceeded the pass rate with a score of “4” or “5.” Extraordinary.

Mrs. Burton has worked to ensure that each class following this group has the opportunity to take AP Calculus BC. She projects that the enrollment will increase to 15 students in school year 2020-2021 and 20 students in school year 2021-2022.

This is truly amazing for a high school our size. Many very large high schools don’t even offer AP Calculus BC as an option. This course evidences our district vision in action: “World Class Opportunities. Small School Relationships. Lifelong Impact.”

I interviewed this team of seven students to better understand their “why” for working so hard to take a course that is, at best, extremely challenging. Each student laughed and remarked that they wanted to be better positioned for their post-secondary plans. I was interested in those plans and was genuinely touched by their depth of thinking.

Students in this class intend to study engineering, computer science/informatics, pre-medicine, computational linguistics and science research. Clearly, each application requires a strong foundation in mathematics. We are so proud to provide them with the opportunity to achieve the same.

When you are in any calculus class, the best connection I can make is that the students are studying another language. There are letters and symbols that just don’t translate into everyday application. The application, however, happens when you see the deep level of thinking, reasoning and problem solving that takes place when a student works through a problem.

AP Calculus BC engages students in exploring the concepts, methods and applications of differential and integral calculus, including topics such as parametric, polar and vector functions, and series.

These students and their teacher are absolutely amazing. Their commitment to their studies, during a year when some students choose to “coast,” is impressive. These are serious students who are preparing themselves for a next step that will result in incredible success.

Additionally, what is also special about this group is that they are delightful kids who like to laugh and eat birthday cake on the first day of school.

“Happy birthday” to AP Calculus BC at BCHS and “Bravo” to this group of seven extraordinary students and their teacher!

You have proven that a small school doesn’t = <.>

*Laura Hammack is superintendent of Brown County schools. She can be reached at 812-988-6601 or lhammack@browncountyschools.com.*