What courses should a student take in middle and high school to prepare for college majors in physics and engineering?

I’ve recently heard some disturbing stories about the advice math- and science-oriented 8th graders are getting regarding their choices of freshman year science courses.

So here is mine – starting from 7th grade.  I will note specifically that AP Environmental Science – apparently the course being sold as a great freshman year science course to many Leon County 8th graders – doesn’t belong in the academic program for any student who might pursue a career in the physical sciences or engineering.  It only takes time away from learning more math, chemistry and physics, which are the key subjects in the most promising careers of the future.

It is a necessity for students to take Algebra 1 in middle school if they are to be on track for college majors in physics and engineering.  For students who are ready to take Algebra 1 in 7th grade, taking it then instead of waiting until 8th grade provides time to learn more calculus and physics in high school.  But parents and students should recognize that coming to college with credit in Advanced Placement Calculus AB and physics (preferably AP Physics) is the new normal for physics and engineering majors, and a student must take Algebra 1 no later than 8th grade to complete those courses in high school.

Here are the standard academic sequences for students who take Algebra 1 in 7th and 8th grades:

For students taking Algebra 1 in 7th grade:

8th grade:   Honors Geometry and High school-level Honors Biology 1, Honors Physical Science or Honors Earth/Space Science.

9th grade:  Honors Algebra 2 and Honors Biology 1 or Honors Chemistry 1.

10th grade:  Honors Precalculus and Honors Chemistry 1 or Honors Physics 1.

11th grade:  AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC, and  Honors Physics 1 or AP Physics B.

12th grade:  AP Calculus BC or Dual Enrollment courses in Calculus 3 and Ordinary Differential Equations, and AP Physics C or AP Chemistry.

 

For students taking Algebra 1 in 8th grade:

8th grade:  Honors Algebra 1 and High school-level Honors Biology 1, Honors Physical Science or Honors Earth/Space Science.

9th grade:  Honors Geometry and Honors Biology 1 or Honors Chemistry 1.

10th grade:  Honors Algebra 2 and Honors Chemistry 1 or Honors Physics 1.

11th grade:  Honors Precalculus and Honors Physics 1.

12th grade:   AP Calculus AB and AP Physics B.

 

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One Response to What courses should a student take in middle and high school to prepare for college majors in physics and engineering?

  1. Pingback: Florida’s Algebra 1 end-of-course exam: 7th graders rule! « Bridge to Tomorrow

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