Mathematics departments have not been overly enthusiastic about rethinking precalculus courses despite changes in calculus, changes in K-12 mathematics that have resulted from the NCTM Standards, and an increased emphasis on accountability. In four-year colleges and universities, some faculty equate precalculus with precollege mathematics or at best as the one mathematics course that students take to meet their graduation requirement. However, in the two-year colleges, precalculus often serves as a true pathway to calculus and to majors that require a significant amount of mathematics.
For many years, calculus reform was the rallying point for mathematics faculty around the country. It involved much more than the addition or deletion of topics from the calculus curriculum. Rather, it initiated the fundamental questioning of what was really important for calculus students to know, particularly in the light of the increasing availability of technology in the form of computers, graphing calculators, and computer algebra systems. The balance of depth versus breadth, applications, and theory was questioned. Calculus reform was much more than just curriculum reform since it also demanded significant change in pedagogy and assessment. Today, even so-called “traditional” mathematics courses and textbooks reflect elements directly attributable to calculus reform. With the history of collegiate calculus reform, why isn't precalculus reform being embraced by the mathematics faculty?
Initiating curricular change
What will it take for significant change to take place in the collegiate precalculus course? Who needs to get on board for it to happen?