Personal opinion on what High Schools need to prepare for college:

By: RTSplayer , 5:22 PM GMT on June 26, 2014

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First of all:

Unless you plan on being a College Athlete or Sports Coach, you should take the minimum of P.E. in High School as possible.

Unless you definitely plan on joining the Marine Corps, you should not take more than 2 courses in JROTC. The third and fourth years are mostly a waste of time if you are planning on going to College, as you won't learn anything new in that time period.



Recommendations for your High School Curricula so you don't get totally blind-sided by your first two semesters of College.:

Biology 2*
Chemistry 2*
Trig/Advanced Math (required)
Pre-calculus*/ High School Calculus if possible, if offered
Computer Literacy (Hands on, not correspondence).
"Physical Science" or equivalent, required.
Physics Required
Physics 2* (High School if available)

Foreign Language: Get some teaching CDs/DVDS and watch them in addition to High School Classes, otherwise you're pretty well screwed if you don't have a bi-lingual family. A college Spanish class does not allow ANY speaking in English after the first week, for example. If you didn't get an "A" in Spanish 2 in High School, you'll probably fail.


Take anything possible during summer to try to fit this all in.

Junior High (your future child, or your younger sibling):

8th Grade:
Algebra 1 if offered and qualified.
Pre-algebra if not.

Take Algebra 1 as correspondence or in a technical school during summer if you did not get in 8th grade, this will free up more room for math or sciences in your Junior and Senior year in High School.


* I did not take in High School, but should have.



If you're serious about college, you need to graduate High School with about 3 to 6 more credit-hours than what is actually on your advanced curriculum in order to REALLY be prepared for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) related majors.


If you know you want to do something in another field, such as Business, Journalism, History, or Education, then you should take 3 to 6 (High School equivalent) credit hours worth of related courses in those fields during High School, ABOVE the "advanced" High School Curricula. That means additional English, Foreign Language, or History related courses outside of High School, or at the very least tutoring, free if possible, paid if not, in Foreign Language ahead of time.

Get your parents to pay for it, or see if you can get financial aid. Skip some Christmas gifts or something, and save money to go.


If you can't pay for a full blown course and credit, or if you don't feel you can do well on all of that, either take the extra courses during the Summer, or get a tutor who can at least teach you the subjects above and beyond High School level WHILE you are in High School.

Sure you need to have fun, but one hour per week getting tutored by somebody in calculus, for example if you didn't get it as a senior or junior in High School, even if even not for a grade, would help you immeasurably when you get to college.

If you know limits, derivatives and integrals for some basic types of functions, and some 3d geometry, then when you take the college level Calculus class you are going to be in a lot better shape than I was when I started my first Calculus class.

This can literally make the difference between an A or B in a course vs a Drop/Fail for the first attempt. Don't take it lightly.

When possible, in college try to take math classes a semester ahead of the allegedly equivalent physics class. In spite of what the curricula says, you probably will not be ready for the physics class, even if the counselor says you are, unless you've done some of the above options I discussed while you were in High School.


If you don't plan on going to college, which is generally a bad idea, since you need at least a 2 year degree to do just about anything now, then you still need business math and I'd recommend some drafting and shop, welding, or electrical related classes. A four year, Bachelor's, Degree is not for everyone, but in general you want at least a 2 year degree or certification. This is mandatory even if you plan on doing hand's on/blue collar work, and ever want to be above entry level. Just like the "College Prep" above, you should be taking night or summer classes in the skill or trade you want to employ.

High School is not enough to prepare you for a real job or career, unless you get very, very lucky and are placed in a hire-and-train situation, or have family connections, and it is not enough to prepare you for college either. Colleges currently have a 66% dropout rate, and generally only people who made 3.0 or above in High School even attempt college. This isn't to scare people, it's to make people realize the education system is inadequate.


If anyone else has any comments or clarifications feel free to post. This is not meant to be exhaustive and is more focused on anyone doing anything related to a Major or Minor STEM.

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3. RTSplayer
2:18 PM GMT on July 04, 2014
Now the reason I'm hung up on professors' attitudes toward grades and teaching is complex.

They seem to think it's "okay" if the Bell Curve in their class is centered on a "c" average, simply because a grade of "c" is viewed as average.

This is a fallacy. If the instructor wants to be the best instructor, he ought to aim to have a Bell Curve centered on a grade average "A," and not from making too-easy tests or giving away grades, but rather from actually teaching the material.

You can get a Bell Curve centered on a "C", which is a 70% minimum on a 10 point scale, without even teaching half the material, because odds are somebody in the class is a genius, and a few others could self-teach.

Observe:

If I know half the material, that's a 50%.
In a true/false section, you can guess and get 50% of that section.

So if half the test is 4x multiple choice, and the other half is true false, plus an short essay or two, and you know half the material.

You get 25% total by knowing half hte multiple choice questions.
guessing on the others gives an average of 6.25% of the total grade, which gives 31.25%

You know half the multiple choice, so that's antoher 25%, brings us to 56.25%

You guess on the other half the multiple choice, that's another 12.5% on average.

Total:
67.75%
by knowing half the material and guessing on the other half.
This assumes your knowledge on the multiple choice section is so poor that you cannot eliminate any "obviously wrong" questions.

If you at least know enough to eliminate 1 wrong answer, on average, and you absolutely know half the material, then you will make a C if your guesses are average, which means the professor doesn't even have to teach anything for the class to get a C average, assuming everyone took the previous prerequisite course, for this particular course. I found this course to be about half covered by high school geology and physics discussion, plus a few library books, so it's reasonable for a student to already know half the material.

When I took Physical Geology in college, I already knew about 80 to 85% of the material to at least some degree, so if I made a "C" or a "B" in the class, I could do that without even learning anything...

So when the professor proudly presents his Bell Curve centered somewhere between 70 and 80% for grades, to me that means he didn't really do a good job teaching the material, since you can know half the material, and guess on the other half of the material, and still make 75%.

In order to actually be a true "c average" in terms of student knowledge, where multiple choice and true false questions are posed, the bell curve needs to be centered on 85%.

If the curve is centered on 85% then it means the class, on average, knew 70% of the material, and guessed on the remaining 30% of the material, meaning their knowledge is 70%, and the average guesser got half of the questions correct.

Therefore a curve centered on 75% is indicative of a professor who successfully taught no more than half the material. Again,due to the benefits of guessing, the Bell Curve needs to be centered on 85% in order to indicate that the average student KNOWS 70% of of the material (C- grade).

If the curve is centered on 90%, it means the class KNOWS 80% of the material on average. If it's centered on 95%, then they know 90% on average.

It's truly an epic fail on the part of the educational system, because the instructors don't even understand the statistics of their own grading system.

I don't think a professor should get paid for having a Bell Curve indicative of a massive fail rate.

Students get no credit for a 59%, why does a professor?
Students have to re-take a core curriculum course if they have 69% or less, why do professors get paid if only 60 to 70% of their students "pass" and some of the ones who "pass" do so with a D average, and the students are paying to be there?!?

It's a hypocritical system.


Now of course, many courses don't have multiple choice at all, but are based on math manipulation which is "fill in the bland" or "show your work" type answers, which have different probabilities, but the same probability applies IMO.

If a person could guess and get 50% on a multi-choice test, then the Bell Curve needs to be centered on 85% in order to indicate a level of knowledge equal to a "C-" on a 10 point system. When you apply this reasoning to other courses as a metric, you see that instructors are actually "teaching" next to nothing in school.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
2. RTSplayer
1:41 PM GMT on July 04, 2014
Also, pick a university with reasonable course syllabus.

Differential Equations and Linear Algebra at LSU are combined into a single, one semester, 5 hour course.

AT SELU they are broken down into a series of 4 times 3 hours courses, which in principle can be spread across as many as 4 semesters.

If you were a student at LSU, I'd literally recommend transferring to SELU for a few semesters just to do this math block, because you are going to get killed by it if you try it over there, unless you are literally a genius, or pay $20 per hour for some tutoring several hours per week. I should know.

If your college offers free auditing, do it. pre-audit every math and physics class during the previous semester if possible.

If the math classes are full so that you can't pre-audit those, then pre-audit the chemistry or biology classes on your curriculum, typically large lecture halls, so you can take some future load off the harder courses.


For those of you in Senior High School or Freshman College, who don't know what this means, go to wikipedia and search the following topics:

Second Order Differentials
Eigenvalues and Eigenvectors
Wronskian
Vector Spaces
Hamiltonians

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eigenvalues_and_eige nvectors

We did that section within about a week, and we covered more material than the wikipedia article summarizes, and you could literally make a full semester course on this topic alone if you wanted to be exhaustive about it.


Nothing in here is ridiculously difficult by itself, but it is incredibly tedious and time consuming, and a LOT to remember.

Do your practice problems. If the professor recommends you do the odds, do the evens anyway, then search for some more on the internet, and study cliff notes and wikipedia.



When you take a certain test you will see a wronskian problem, and it is not hard conceptually, but they will give you three functions which are likely ridiculously hard to differentiate, by design. For some reason, college professors feel the need to design tests to piss you off and waste time, rather than test your knowledge. You'll waste half the test period on this one problem, because it involves 6 derivatives, determinants, and some more math just to solve one problem. Save it for last, even if it's the first thing on the test. The reason I hate this test style is that in the real world, most math general formulas have already been solved, and if you were doing this for your career you could look up the general formula, instead of having to solve each of those equations separately, so it adds nothing to the test for the professor to use a very complicated function, as was done to us. They gave us very complicated, nested transcendental functions, when all that was required to test whether you knew the material was a simple polynomial for each function. Of course, the professor was like a 190I.Q. "Walter Bishop" type guy, who probably had the thing memorized, so maybe he didn't realize how hard that was for other people to do, I don't know.

Anyway, 6 question test. You miss one you lost a letter grade and a half. Odds are, if you didn't do all the practice problems and have some tutoring, you won't even make to the 6th question anyway, so you better not miss any of the first 5.

On a 10 question test, if you did not do all the practice problems, and make at least an A or B on the previous course, or previous test in the same course, you won't finish the test, so you better get 100% right on the ones you do finish.


When you are taking notes in this class, it works like this:

There is probably a double-wide black board in front of the class, we actually had another pair down the other wall. The professor writes out the formal definition of whatever topic you are working on, typically. Then he writes out a formal proof, which isn't necessarily always the same proof found in your text book. These proofs do not fit on a double wide black board. When he finishes one side, he starts on the other, when he finishes the other, he erases the first side and continues writing and discussing. There were days where I took over 10 pages of notes on a single day.

For reasons I still don't know, when we got to the topic of Vector Spaces, we spent 2 days on a collegiate level formal proof that 0 - 0 = 0.

I kid you not. It contributed nothing to the remainder of the course, but for some reason it was important enough to take up 2 hours of class time.

The problem for me in this class was not really the material, it was the time restrictions of the tests. It seemed ridiculous how little time there is to complete problems this complex, particularly when the professor does not select reasonable equations for testing the course material, but instead used problems which were two or three levels of nesting beyond what was necessary to test the knowledge of the course.

I don't think it's appropriate to have a matrix based problem on a one hour test, where all of the members are ridiculously complicated functions in their own right. We had two or three questions like that on one test, and half the class failed the test, and dropped the next day.

You know, if it had been like:

f(x) = x^3
g(x) = 3x^2 + 2x
h(x) = 5x

Or whatever, I made that up...

That would test your knowledge of the material, in that case the wronskian problem, without being ridiculously complicated.

What they did to us was something absurd like this:

This is NOT an exaggeration.

f(x) = (sinx)*(cosx) - 3x(cosx)^2
g(x) = (sinx) / (cosx)^2... (which is (sinx) * (cosx)^-2)
h(x) = x/sqrt(sin(2x) - 7)


I don't remember exactly, and this probably isn't even a realistic problem, but I just remember it being ridiculous.

It served no educational purpose for a 1.5 letter grade problem to be that complicated.

There was more than one of these on the same test.

I remember looking at the problem he had on the test and immediately saying, "There's no way to finish this in the amount of time we have, because I don't have all of those solutions memorized."

I should have appealed the course because of this, but didn't.

I always said it should have been broken down into several smaller courses, and then years later i discover other universities do break it down into several smaller courses.


So....

BUYER BEWARE.

I recommend NOT taking this course at LSU or anywhere who tries to cram this into a 5 credit hour course. Transfer, and try to transfer somewhere that offers free tutoring, and breaks it down into at least two 3 credit hour courses (not co-requisite, as taking it all at once defeats the purpose,) or more like 3 or 4 courses, else you'll suffer.

If you think you know it before test day, you probably don't know it well enough. Have a friend or tutor write an over-complicated 6 or 10 question practice test (if you're lucky the professor might tell you ahead of time how many questions are on the test, if not, just guess).

When I was in college, I suffered from severe social and general anxiety,a nd primary depression (all not clinically diagnosed), so I didn't really function like that and didn't have access to those options, and they costed $18 per hour anyway, which was 2.5 times as much as I made at my own part time job at the time.


The reason this pisses me off so much is the only thing preventing me from getting a math minor, or even a math major, is the way jerk professors take an already insanely complicated topic, and then double or triple the complexity unnecessarily, just to make it harder than it needs to be.

If I had a professor like that again, brilliant man, just unreasonable as a teacher, I wouldn't be able to finish the class even if it took it two more times in a row. It just wouldn't happen. When it comes to professors, you really don't know what you have until you've already been in the class for the first week or two.

This is the typical LSU math professor's introduction to the class:

"Hello, My name is Dr. so-and-so (usually German, Chinese, or Japanese with a very thick accent, speaking English as a third language,). This course is very difficult, I have a 60 to 70% drop/fail rate, so there's no playing around here. etc, etc, (discussing syllabus and such)."

Professor at SELU:

"Hello, My name is Dr. Keith Bancroft. I just want to mention the text, but we won't be using it. You are paying me to teach you something, so I'm going to teach you something. If all we were doing is reading the text, then why the hell would you need me? right? Just use the text as a reference if you need it. I'm your employee, and it's my job to TEACH you the material, and there'll be no esoteric knowledge." He proceeds to show up every day with a piece of chalk and a roll book with no text. Teaches and writes his notes from memory on the board, discussing with analogies, and using a combinations of outlines, flow charts, and diagrams, from memory, to teach, plus even a joke or 3 to make things stick and break up any monotony. He started with a degree in cooking (he was in the U.K when he was younger and their educational requirements were different,) but ended up being a Ph.D in microbiology. I got an A in the class, and got to talk to him for 10 to 15 minutes after every class period. I opened the text book one time, because I took his word for it, and it worked, and I learned, and retained, more in that one course than any 2 or 3 other college level courses combined.

Now these are two different topics, but the point is that's the difference between an instructor who gives a damn, vs somebody who either doesn't care, or is too advanced and does comprehend that other people aren't on his level (LSU freaking 1 in 10 million professors). Just because you're ridiculously smart and know the material doesn't make you a good teacher.

He was right. The professor is your employee. If they are not TEACHING you the material, they shouldn't get paid.

"I'm not covering that topic, it'll be on the test though, you read it at home," is a red flag. Appeal to the dean. If the instructor is the Dean, appeal to the chancellor. You are not paying them to tell you to read the text at home. You are paying them to instruct and explain material, a.k.a. "teach".

That's not to say you shouldn't read or study at home, but that line many professors give is bull crap.


So I'll summarize this again...

1, Know the college's curricula and compare to other colleges. Try to take the hardest math and physics courses in smaller segments, by transferring if possible.

2, Know the instructor. If he starts citing how many people fail his class, raise your hand and EMBARRASS him, and point out that students fail if they make less than 60%, and a C (70%) is required in core curricula. If he only passes 30 or 40% of students then HE IS A FAILURE AND SHOULD BE FIRED. EMBARRASS him. If he tries to kick you out, tell him he's your employee.

3, Tutor and audit, free if possible.

4, math and physics classes require 3 or more study hours per 1 class hour. Chemistry is pretty much 30 minutes to 1 hour per class hour. Biology is more rote memory too, but you need a few hours per credit hour.

5, Expose yourself to Cliff Notes and wikipedia for your course(s) or the closest related courses, two or three times. Read the entire article for each course, and if possible for next semester's courses as well.

You need to read the entire article, at whatever skill level, 3 or 4 times all the way through, with comprehension, in order to retain the material. That would be once every day or two for a week. When you get tired or bored with one topic, switch to the other, and when you get tired or bored with that one, switch back.

I have proven by experiment that for me, this is the best "out of the class-room" study method available. Your text book, while useful for some purposes, is often not focused enough to deliver critical material in a compact form.

6, Do all practice problems, even if they aren't assigned, unless you have a very, very good teacher (like top 5 in your educational career).

7, Cramming doesn't help everyone. Doing number 5 and 6 above helps a lot more. If you have 4 solid, highly focused and attentive repetitions of number 5 above, then that is better than an hour of cramming.

8, Bring a recorder to class every day and use it every day, even if the instructor tells you not to. You are paying him, he can STFU.

9, Don't be afraid to drop, transfer, or appeal based on grades, insufficient prerequisite issues, unreasonable ordering of courses in curricula, or incompetent instructors.

10, Get tested for Anxiety and Depression before going to college. Get a full psychological evaluation and composite I.Q. test. You may not realize you have it, because it doesn't always manifest itself, and it isn't always obvious that certain behavioral restrictions you place on yourself are anxiety or depression related. SAT and ACT scores do not reflect what you will be or will be capable of in college. If you have undiagnosed social or concentration problems, you will struggle miserably, and you'll be asking yourself, "Why?" It is not your fault, but you will pay the price for the rest of your life if you don't deal with it ahead of time.

You are around life-long friends in High School, if you don't understand something, you can easily ask a friend of ten years. In college you may see a high school class-mate once per month, unless you were very close friends to begin with, so everyone you meet will be new, strange, and have conflicting beliefs and views that you won't be used to mediating in your network.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
1. Astrometeor
12:45 AM GMT on June 27, 2014
I would say that there is a disconnect at the high school point in education. The college system in America is generally superb, the primary school system is where the major fiascoes routinely happen.

I think I did a pretty good job on your recommendations, I took AP Physics B and AP Calculus BC. I got a 3 on my physics test, calculus I took this year, so my scores come back in July.

Luckily for me, my college has foreign language as an option, so I think I'm going to skip that.

The only bad spot for me is computer literacy. Heh. AP Computer Science was offered for my senior year, but considering my workload, and the fact the teacher had to take an emergency course over the summer just to get a general clue...yea, that would've been a minefield.

Graduated this year from the #1/2 (depends on who you ask) school in Tennessee with a 3.24 (unweighted) GPA and with Distinction.
Member Since: July 2, 2012 Posts: 101 Comments: 10346

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