The national pass rate for Advanced Placement Calculus classes is approximately 58 percent, but one AP Calculus teacher at Santa Fe Christian’s Upper School is getting 97 percent pass rates. And, all of his students take the test each year.
It is a unique precedent set at SFC in which every student who takes an AP class also takes the AP exam. That is not the case at all highs schools. For instance, at some high schools there may be 30 students in an AP class yet only one of two students attempt to take the AP exam.
When math teacher Mike Maxon first arrived on campus eight years ago, the AP Calculus passage rate just two years prior to his arrival was close to 27 percent. Right away, Mr. Maxon began to build an AP Calculus curriculum from the ground up. While it is important to him that the students who take his AP course, pass, he has bigger aspirations for them. “It’s not just AP Calculus that I am passionate about but math in general,” Mr. Maxon pointed out, “There are so many reasons to encourage students to become really good in math. In pursuing math, the challenges are endless. It is interesting to note that in 2012 Payscale.com’s list of the top 30 paying jobs, all but two require advanced math.”
How does nearly all of Mr. Maxon’s AP Calculus AB and BC classes pass the exam? Perhaps it is the combination of his love for math, the opportunities to be a part of elite competitions, and his teaching style. “Mr Maxon is great at teaching the entire class. When one person doesn’t understand he takes the time to work with them until they do understand,” recounts AP student, Cole Saunders, “He doesn’t just give us the answers but has us work in groups, then as a class to find the answer together.”
Senior, Van Coykendall is one of the top five math students at SFC. “What I admire most about Mr. Maxon is also the reason why he has such a high AP pass rate,” stressed Van. “He really wants every student to not just learn all the formulas, but gain a deep understanding of the material. He is always available for help outside of class.”
“In order to help students develop a conceptual understanding, I often give them a challenging task that promotes reasoning,” discusses Maxon. “The shortcuts or procedures students learn must develop from a conceptual understanding of the topic.”
Mr. Maxon’s enthusiasm for math is easily transferred to his many students. “He is extremely passionate about math, which rubs off on all of us. He makes learning math understandable and enjoyable,” says junior Justin Haug. “I think his high pass rate is due to his passion for math and his incredible teaching ability.”
Mr. Maxon believes that math is fun. “If students are willing to take on a Growth Mindset in which they truly believe that they can substantially change how intelligent they are through perseverance; then math is the ideal topic to pursue.” He attributes this mindset to having an above 90% pass rate for the last four years with the majority of students attaining a 5, the highest score possible on an AP exam. “Success breeds success,” states Maxon, “It is evidence for the current students that hard work pays off.” Students who take Mr. Maxon’s class can be confident that they will learn from an experienced and passionate teacher who will do all he can to help them be successful in math and celebrate that achievement by passing the AP exam.
Learn more about the academics at SFC’s academic page on the website.