AP Calculus at Lathrop H.S.

A Guide for Students and Parents

Reasons for taking AP Calculus

Not that long ago, the main reason for a student to take Advanced Placement Calculus was to prepare that student for the rigorous coursework to become an engineer, architect, physicist, medical doctor, or other technological or scientific individual. Academic enthusiasm and engagement is another reason. These reasons still exist, but there is another reason with today’s student, and that is to improve one’s transcript in order to compete against other students in college placement and acceptance. Transcript status is now the primary reason why students engage into AP Calculus. The class, however, is still taught at a level of expectation for the rigorous student. It is not reduced to make room for those who may not be mathematically as prepared or interested as the scientific and technologically minded individuals. If it were reduced it would not hold the weight for this transcript status and your probability of passing the AP Exam with a score of 3 or higher would diminish greatly.

If the student passes the coursework, takes the AP test in early May, and receives a score of 3 or higher, then the student is allowed to use this as college classwork. This allows the student to get ahead of the competition, it allows the parent to pay for less college classes, and in most schools, including LHS, the student gets an extra grade point out of the class increasing their GPA. If the student takes the course in college anyway, then the student already has the content of the class mastered and will enjoy the class at college far more than they would have otherwise. Taking AP Calculus in high school also prepares the student for the rigors of college and enables the student to academically mature.

It has been shown in studies that if a student takes AP Calculus but does NOT pass the AP Exam, the student still enjoys a much higher probability of high performance and completion of college than those who did not take the course.

Prerequisites for Calculus

The prerequisite for Calculus is completion of Pre-Calculus, or equivalent Analysis coursework. This would include functions and graphs, polynomials, matrices, logs and exponents, trigonometry and inverse trigonometry, sums, series and sequences, conics, polar coordinates, vectors, as well as the analysis that goes along with these subjects. A survey of these subjects is not sufficient, but rather in-depth coverage and analysis of these subjects.

What is Calculus?

AP Calculus AB has two main components: Differential Calculus and Integral Calculus. In Differential Calculus, the slope of lines of tangencies of functions is defined, analyzed and investigated, along with the infinite applications associated with them. In Integral Calculus, the area under curves of functions defined between intervals is defined, analyzed and investigated, along with the infinite applications associated with them. These include polynomials, logs and exponents, trigonometric and inverse trigonometric functions, and a few other concepts.

AP Calculus BC adds to those subjects of AP Calculus AB the differential and integral calculus dealing with conic sections, polar coordinates, vectors, as well as discrete calculus of sums, series and sequences, mainly including Taylor and MacLauren Series, which define so many functions.

AB & BC Calculus, Fall and Spring

At  most high schools, AP Calculus AB is a year-long course beginning in August or September and culminating with the AP Calculus AB Exam in early May. However, at Lathrop High School, we are on block schedule, causing courses to fly along at twice the pace. Our reaction to this is to offer AP Calculus AB in the Fall, beginning in August and ending before Christmas. Then we continue on with AP Calculus BC in January. This counts as two years of Calculus instead of the usual one year. In early May the students take the AP Calculus BC Exam. This exam gives the student a BC score as well as an AB sub-score. The students get TWO scores for taking only 1 test, sort of a two-for-one special.


The topics of AP Calculus AB include but are not limited to limits and continuity, slopes and derivatives, differentials, applications of the derivative and related rates, area under curves, integration, moments and centroids, growth and decay, business applications, forces, differential equations, trigonometric differentials and integrals, and much more. The topics of AP Calculus BC include but are not limited to sums, series and sequences, Taylor and MacLauren Series, vectors, work, torque, conic sections, polar coordinates, planetary motion, and many more.

Student Expectations

Obviously the rigors of AP courses, including Calculus, are quite high. It is expected that the student will clear time and energy for the obligations of studying Calculus. If the student can’t clear time, energy, commitment and space for this investment, they definitely should NOT take AP Calculus. It is necessary for the student to commit to the time and engagement in the 90 minute class each day, an equivalent or greater time each night for studies and practice, and frequently time before, during and after school for continuation of their efforts with the teacher and other students. The student is expected to purchase a study guide from a legitimate bookstore, either at the mall or on-line. It is expected that the student will be able to afford the price of this material, other material, and the expense of the AP Exam, about $86. Students in sports will have conflicts, and frequently the student will be forced into deciding or prioritizing between interests. If AP Calculus is the winner on this decision, then it must remain as a priority for the entire school year. If during this tenure the student falls behind, it is mandatory that the student increases their time and energy in this endeavor. The homework load is heavy, usually long and intense, and students will have to have the character to be willing to reattempt problems that they may have worked on and failed numerous times until success occurs. Study groups are an amazing way to get more out of an AP course. If you can group-up and have study nights or study weekends with agreeable partners, you will be at an advantage. If one of your members is not pulling their load, you may have to remove them from your study group. If your study group goofs off instead of getting tasks complete, you may have to re-evaluate its existence. If you see people who are cheating or otherwise illegitimately involved in solving test or quiz problems, remove yourselves from them, because when we investigate an event, anybody involved will be punished. The class content moves at an alarming rate since we are on Block Schedule. For this reason you will have to accept that not every single iota of information will be given to you and you will have to discover applications and analogies during your private study time. Once in a while you might get a full-night’s sleep.

Parent Expectations

Commitment by the students is imperative, and likewise by the parents. AP Calculus will demand time and energy, as well as money, to complete. Once a student starts AP Calculus, it is expected that they will complete the journey. When it gets unbearably difficult, the expectation is for an increase of energy and engagement rather than the concept of bailing out. Your child will be working on AP Calculus for at least an hour and a half each night, and the successful students much longer. There will be a few expenses. The student will be required to purchase an AP Calculus Exam Prep Book. Most are around $20 at a bookstore, but once one has been found and determined to be to the likes of the student, they may be able to obtain one on-line for far less. There will be an AP Exam fee, about $86. Your child will be working on Calculus every night, will frequently be at school before and after hours, and will have to decide to choose between AP Calculus and possibly other interests, such as sports. Once the decision has been made that Calculus is the winner, then it is expected that the student will take it to the end. No bailing out at Christmas, or when they are unhappy due to the work load. Instead, it is expected that the student will increase their energy and engagement to accommodate their issues. Please be sure to read the Teacher Expectations to see what can be done for these bad times. One of the parent expectations is to understand that your child is taking on a tremendous task. The class is FAST, difficult, stressful, and the work load, time frame and rigors are demanding and difficult. The goal is to over-prepare for the AP Exam and for the content of the class, prepare the student for the realities of collegiate academia, and to send our kids off to college prepared and competitive.

A special note regarding what I call Valedictorian Disorder. Students who are straight-A students usually get there by memorizing facts, regurgitating them on tests, then dumping those information to make room to memorize the next set of facts. They repeat this over and over getting As in all their classes. They are now at the top of their class and considered smarter than everybody else, parents brag about them, and then they step into a Pre-Calculus or Calculus class requiring them to THINK. The process that got them here no longer works. Suddenly, parents notice that their star child no longer is getting those As they have always gotten before. The expectation that they should be awarded an A is no longer based on memorizing a few things, but is now measured by their ability to think analytically. So, you have been warned. Please do not place your blame or anger upon Mr. Baldwin when this event occurs. One of the reasons I expect large quantities of homework is to train their brains into processing analytically. If you only memorize the 6 things we did in class, but don’t work the other 43 things in the exercises, the student will not form the ability to get through problems they have never seen before, and will only be able to process problems EXACTLY like the ones they memorized. Please avoid this by understanding that there is a reason why so much homework is assigned and that regardless of how well you child did in “math” classes before, they are now required to think analytically.

Teacher Expectations

Mr. Baldwin is a 24-7 teacher. There is no time in which a student cannot benefit from assistance from Mr. Baldwin. No matter what time or day, if a student is working on Calculus and needs assistance, they have permission to contact him. His phone number is 594-1894. His cell phone is (360) 640-0093. His e-mail address is baldjeff@comcast.net. His address is 594 Pioneer Avenue in Lathrop. Mr. Baldwin’s website is http://bald.freewebsitehosting.com. His commitment is for the Calculus students, before, during and after their tenure. Many students call him from college after they have left High School for help and encouragement. Mr. Baldwin has been teaching AP Calculus AB and BC for many years, very successfully, knows the expectations and strategies of the AP Exams, stays current with new rules and changes in the AP system, has been audited by the College Board, has taken the AP Calculus Instructors coursework, and uses Calculus in his home businesses. His interest and love for Calculus is unmatched. He understands students’ issues and stresses, while simultaneously knows the rate and depth required for excellence in the mastery of this course. He will be available to any student or parent for discussion at any time. He is open to criticism but is also quite firm on his routine, scheduling and rigor. Mr. Baldwin will also train students not only mastery in the Calculus, but also test taking strategies that are unique to the AP Calculus Exam.

School Expectations

One would expect that the system (the school and the administration) would back and support an AP program efficiently and completely. However, in times of economic difficulties AP programs often are cheated. It is politically correct to place most support on the educationally challenged rather than to the educationally superior, and we are currently in a time of economic difficulty. So there is no promise that our school will support us in any way other than allowing the program to exist. If the numbers are low, the class will be placed into a combination with another class such as Pre-Calculus, or worse yet, eliminated. If the numbers are high enough the program will continue. However, funding for activities such as field trips, paying for exams, etc. are most likely nonexistent for the next decade. The school will emotionally support the AP program, will offer a location for testing, and will manage records and processes, but most likely will not be of any other aid. This will entirely be placed on the teacher, student and parent. We will find a way to pay for the AP Exams if this is a challenge to you and your family. We may have to work and invest for it, but we’ll find a way.

Time allocation

AP Calculus class is 90 minutes a day. It is necessary that students attend every day, are not sharing their time being out of class for other activities on a regular basis, and are critically engaged every day. In addition to this, time must be allocated every single night for their Calculus studies. Most agree that as much time is allocated for homework as there is class time (90 minutes per day), but to limit your studies in Calculus to 90 minutes a day is unrealistic for success. In addition to this commitment, it will be necessary to meet frequently before and after school for organized and/or casual study time. Frequently we will meet on other days (Saturdays) to practice AP test taking at least in the period approximately a month before the AP test. Commitment to the program is essential. Also, if the student will miss school for any period of time, their expectation is to maintain their learning and stay on schedule on their own at home or wherever. The website should be used to determine the subjects of the day, and Mr. Baldwin’s telephone number is known by all students so they can call and get up to speed. Do NOT wait until your return from an absense to find out what has been missed.


The pacing schedule will be given to students, posted on our class web page, and will frequently be adjusted and modified to fit our needs. Students will be responsible for maintaining a calendar of events, tests, homework due dates, projects, study groups, etc. Daily planners help tremendously.


Our text will be provided by the school, and another text will be provided by Mr. Baldwin. The school uses the Larson Calculus book. Mr. Baldwin has found that the order in which it moves through the Calculus is unusual. For this reason he will issue his copies of the 1994 Addison Wesley Calculus book which is where most of the work will be from. The AP course outline includes a few items that are not in this book, such as slope fields, at which time we will refer back to our school issued book. Students will also be issued the D&S AP practice book in order to prepare for the AP Exam. In addition to these references, each student will need to purchase an AP Calculus preparation book of their own. These can be checked over at Barnes and Noble, or another book store with a large selection. Once you have found a guide that suits your learning style and needs, you can purchase it either at the bookstore or on-line. Do NOT buy one on-line if you have not actually seen the book yourself first. Once this book has been obtained, you will be able to work from it as we move through the Calculus in class. Each student will be issued a TI-83+ graphing utility calculator. Many students choose to purchase their own TI-89. It is a better calculator, but it is unnecessary to move to this advanced calculator for this class. The TI-83 is much easier to use and is free to use through the school. The TI-83+ and the TI-89 are both legal to use on the calculator portion of the AP Exam.


The AP Exam is usually the first week in May. It is 3 hours and 15 minutes long. It costs about $86. There are two sections, the multiple choice section, and the free response section. Section I is a multiple choice section, Part A is 28 multiple choice questions, no calculators allowed, 28 questions, 55 minutes, while Part B is 17 questions, graphing calculator required, 50 minutes. This section totals 1 hour 45 minutes. Section 2 is free response, Part A is 3 problems, 45 minutes, graphing calculator required, and Part B is 3 problems, 45 minutes, graphing calculator not allowed. This totals 3 hours 15 minutes. Each section is 50% of the test score.

On the multiple choice section, there are 45 questions, each worth 1 point, and on the free response section there are 6 problems, each worth 9 points. On the multiple choice part, a correct problem is worth 1 point, an incorrect problem is worth 0 points, and an unanswered problem is 0 points. On the free response part, there are either 3 or 4 answers sought after. Each answer is worth a point, and the other 5 or 6 points are for the work you show to get to your answers. AP Exam scores are as follows:

1          No Recommendation

2          Possibly Qualified

3          Qualified

4          Well Qualified

5          Extremely Well Qualified

Students receiving a score of 3 or higher are considered to have “passed” the AP Exam. Your scores are sent to you and the school usually in July. Our goal is to have ALL of our A.P. Calculus students scoring 3 or higher. A score of 3 or higher will gain approval at 90% of the colleges in the U.S.

Calculus is special in that the BC Exam is a two-for-one special. If you take Calculus AB AND Calculus BC, then you only take the Calculus BC Exam, but you get two exam scores from it. You get your BC score and an AB sub-score. Such a deal!


The Exam costs about $86. The textbooks and D&S book are supplied by the school. The AP practice guide book will cost you about  $20 at a book store, and possibly less on Internet book stores if bought as used. The only other costs will be your usual school supplies. Some students buy a Pre-Caclulus book to use as a reference during and after Calculus classes. I highly recommend the Addison Wesley 1994 Pre-Calculus book. You can find them on Internet book stores for under $5. This way you can be working a section in Calculus and be able to remember the Pre-Calculus involved with it. Later in college it will also be a tremendous reference for you.

After AP Calculus and Before College

To make use of passing AP Calculus and passing the AP Exam, students must also prove their Pre-Calculus abilities in a college entrance exam. Students are placed into college programs and classes based on a mathematics entrance exam. This Pre-Calculus exam is pretty much like the Pre-Calculus final we offer at LHS. If you pass the AP Exam with a score of 3 or higher, pass the class at school with an appropriate grade, then you can use that class as a college class. However, you must also pass the Pre-Calculus Exam offered either the Spring or the Summer before entering college. At this time, it will have been over a year since you had Pre-Calculus. For this reason it is HIGHLY recommended that you practice for this exam as well as the AP Exam. It would really be tough to pass the AP class and AP Exam only to have to take Pre-Calculus in college first because you didn’t pass that test. The Pre-Calculus book listed in the above section would be a great asset to have in order to prepare for this entrance exam.

College Board

The AP Tests, coursework and process is controlled by the College Board. It is highly recommended that each student goes to the College Board website and register as a student user. That way they can go in and discover all sorts of things that can help them including last minute information, rules, strategies and such. Their website is http://www.collegeboard.com/.


Parent confirmation that the student and parent has read this page entirely must be shown to Mr. Baldwin. To do that, please email Mr. Baldwin at any of his email addresses from the parent’s email address and supply him with the following information:


Student name.

Parent name.

Parent home phone.

Parent work phone.

Parent email [not student’s].

Number of hours you will demand that your child works on AP Calculus per night.

Comments or complaints for Mr. Baldwin.


Thank you, I hope this will be a very successful year.

Mr. Baldwin