Parents as Partners in AP Success

Recently I posted a message on the apcalc listserve that mentioned the information sheet that I give to parents at the beginning of the year that explains how they can help their child to be successful in my class.  I got an overwhelming number of requests for copies so thought the topic might be worthy of a blog entry.  Here we go! 


In the past, administrators insisted that we hand out a course syllabus on back to school night, an activity that I found to be wasteful and off-putting.  Do parents care that I will teach L’Hopital’s Rule and Improper Integrals in February?  NO!  Most of the parents in my school don’t even know what that is.  Much better to use the paper to give parents a list of suggestions as to how they might support their child’s efforts to succeed in an extremely rigorous college level course, often the first class in which their child has truly had to exert himself.  Here is a version of that handout:


How to Help Your Child Succeed in AP Calculus

  • Make sure they are doing homework every day (including on weekends).  Assignments are given at every class meeting and should take about 20-25 minutes.  I don’t expect you to assist with homework, just to see that it is being done.
  • Encourage your child to read the textbook and study its examples.  There are also very good instructional videos online at in case they are absent or just want to have the material presented again.
  • Help them to formulate specific questions.  “I don’t understand this!”  is NOT a question.  “Can you help me see how you found the equation in the third line?” is much more likely to garner assistance.
  • When students encounter difficulty, have them attend tutorials.  I am available every morning, during lunch and advisory, and after school.  Come in before getting too far behind!
  • Help them to form study groups with other serious students.  Pizza can be a powerful lure to entice study-ers to your house.
  • Remind your child to correct all quizzes and tests (even those on which they got an A!)  It’s important that they learn from their mistakes, identify misconceptions and make plans for improvement in the future.
  • Many seniors run into time management problems, particularly as college applications are due and they are distracted by senior activities.  Help them with their calendar (whether electronic or paper) and how to prioritize tasks.
  • Encourage them to persevere despite difficulty.  This might be the first course in which your child really has to struggle to master the material.  Remember that it’s better to learn how to struggle now than when they are off by themselves in college next year.
  • Do not allow them to slack off during the spring semester.  Senioritis often sets in once college acceptance letters go out.  Remind them that you expect them to maintain the performance they have established during their first 3.5 years of high school.  That spring semester DOES appear on their final transcript!
  • Have them sign up for the AP exam.  Registration takes place in March and the exam is given the first week of May.  Having a goal toward which to work often keeps kids focused.  Preparing for that exam will be very much like preparing for a semester exam in college. 
  • Communicate!  Talk to your child about how they are doing and what they might do to improve.  Feel free to email me with questions and concerns.  I have a parent email list that I send out regularly to let you know about upcoming class activities.  For every grading period, there is usually a parent/child activity that you might want to complete. 


I work very hard to help all students master the concepts and skills of AP Calculus.  Student success will depend on many factors, including previous math knowledge and personal motivation.  With all of us (parent, child and teacher) working together, we can help to insure that your child has the very best possible learning experience this year. 


End of the handout.


I try to make it clear that my course will both challenge and support their child.  We both (parent and teacher) want the child to do their best possible work and to be as well prepared for college as we can possibly get them.  While some parents are overly focused on getting the child into college (Parent:  “He needs an A to be accepted!”), I try to turn the conversation to getting the child through college successfully (Me:  “He needs to learn to study and earn his grades without parental intervention.”) 


I alluded above to a few other things that I do that help parents to support their children’s success.  I do have a weekly email that I send out to parents on my list.  I let them know about what we are doing in class (“Ask your child about some of the growth patterns we have studied and some of the interesting applications!”), upcoming tests, scholarship deadlines, school events, etc.  The parents love this communication and feel much more connected to what is happening at school.  They sometimes let me know about things at home that might affect school performance (“My husband was just laid off so we are very concerned about paying for college now.”) 


Mine is a working class community where many of the parents do not have the benefit of higher education themselves, but want that desperately for their children.  They don’t always know how to navigate the college application and financial aid process so any hints and information that I can share is greatly appreciated.  More than anything else, I want the parents to know that I am their ally in helping their child to tackle and to master very challenging material.


I hope this post has given you some ideas.  Please share your thoughts and suggestions by posting a comment. 


One Response to “Parents as Partners in AP Success”

  1. Cedric French-Galan Says:

    Thanks a lot for these great ideas. I really like the idea of using these points when having a parent teacher conference. You Rock!

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