AP Calculus AB/BC Course Syllabus

Chris Thiel, OFMCap, MDiv, MS
cthiel@sfhs.net - (818) 790-0325 x1211
Assignments: hw.mathorama.com
Website: www.mathorama.com
Office Hours: Room ??? Tuesdays-Fridays 7:30-8:00 am, Room ??? Mondays G Block, or by appointment.

Location and Class Codes:
Block Course Room AP
Delta Math Khan Academy
E Calc AB 405 449G67 522E-X8HC 8ZWFMXZX
F Calc BC 202 4WRQW2 LQ8Y-3U2U QSF87MKY

Why Calculus?

Calculus was invented (discovered?) by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, more or less independently, in the mid-to-late-seventeenth century. It is often described as the mathematics of change.
"If you know how fast you're going, then you know how far you'll get in a given amount of time."
All we do in Calculus is explore the set of mathematical manifestations, implications, and extensions of the fact that RATE × TIME = DISTANCE. We can come up with predictions based on rates of changes, and discover some surprising relationships along the way.

Many fields depend on calculus to test their theories and designs. Mathematics can model observations to discover relationships and test solutions, yet mathematics itself depends upon logic and reason to justify its claims. We will use graphing, analytic, and numerical methods to discover and understand mathematical postulates and theorems. We then can use these theorems to justifying our conclusions whether it be for mathematical rigor, or for scientific, engineering, financial, or some other application. You will learn how defend your conclusions made with a theorem by making a mathematical argument that establishes that the necessary conditions of theorem are met. Don't worry, it's easier than it sounds.


The more you can explain, the more you will retain! Help each other as you work through homework and classwork by asking for and offering explanations why a method or conclusion might be correct. For extra help, I will be available before school in Room 103 Tuesday to Friday, and after school Monday in room 104 (or by appointment). If permitted by the school and the CDC, in-persons meetings will be in Room 103.


I am your ally and your advocate. I want you to be successful in this course. I hope you can be an ally and an advocate for your classmates. We are better together.
  1. Be respectful. As you are a St. Francis student, I expect cooperative and responsible behavior in and out of class. Perhaps most importantly, have respect for yourself; honor the effort and quality of your work, and the work of others. By being on time and staying until dismissal, you respect everyone.

  2. Be prepared. This means doing your assignments as well as getting your sleep. It means having a charged iPad, Calculator, paper, and pencil. It's hard to do the job without the tools. Imagine learning to drive without a car (or a golf club)? You NEED sleep. You NEED to schedule time to be prepared.

  3. Be willing. To be willing to improve means you are willing to make mistakes. Calculus takes time and effort—for anyone. It is even more difficult if you are too hard on yourself for making mistakes. Mistakes are how your learned to walk, speak, write, and throw a ball. Mistakes are required for learning, yet for some reason, many talented people do themselves a disservice by negative "self-talk." A "goof" or a "blunder" in your subtraction does not mean you or anyone else are suddenly without intelligence. No author publishes their first draft. Expect to be fully human and make mistakes. If you don't expect mistakes, you will never find and fix them. The secret of a good photographer is to take A LOT of photos, and expect to throw away a lot of "mistakes." I hope you eventually become as thankful for your progress as much as your success.

The Pandemic Continues

Everyone's health is so important, and we need to be flexible to take measures to protect it. School closure and/or remote learning is a possibility throughout the year based on the reality this crisis. It will take a commitment to patience, fortitude, and hope on all of our parts to assure our success.

Acceptance is the Franciscan virtue we celebrate our first quarter back, and I hope we can together practice it with a kindness and a sense of humor. I find it is easier for me when I trust God to do for me what I cannot do alone.

Assignments and Tests

You can see the class topic, classwork, homework assignments, and Test dates for the entire year at hw.mathorama.com. This year we have a new SFHS Portal with many new features. As we begin, we will use it to turn in your textbook homework assignments. We will also use Google Classroom as we transitions more and more things to the SFHS Portal. See the join codes above for your Block for Google Classroom, Delta Math, AP
, and Khan Academy


Scores are weighted according to their category:
Classwork/Work Readiness 5% Based upon class participation which includes bringing materials to class (calculator, book, etc), completion of worksheets, taking notes, and other classroom activities. You must bring a textbook, iPad, calculator, paper and pencil to each class.
Homework 5% Grading is based upon doing assignments on time according to the description below.
Homework Quizzes 10% A short (≈10 minute) assessment based on the previous class's homework or classwork assignments. These may be a QUIP (Quiz in Pairs/Groups) a homework quiz with a partner(s) that is essentially a group exercise that works on collaboration and teamwork skills, and prepares students for their upcoming SQUIZ. SQUIZ (Solo Quiz) is a homework quiz you take individually with no collaboration.
Quizzes 15% A longer (≈ 20 minute) assessment based on combining ideas from the current and previos topics.
Tests 45% Hour long tests based on a synthesis the topics of the chapter (or AP Units) that require your problem solving skills. Larger Chapters or Units might be broken into 2 or more Tests.
Qtr Exams 20% 90 minutes, comprehensive, usually with a section using the calculator, and another section that prohibits the use of a calculator.

Each assessment category is "weighted" (rather than using raw points). This means that to dramatically improve an overall grade, a student must dramatically improve the average grade in one or more of these categories.

It reminds me of how the Presidential election works, using the electoral college instead of popular vote. If all the candidate's supporters are in the same state, it isn't as effective as having supporters in different states, since to with the election, you have to win over a lot of big states. Similarly, it would be best for a student to do well in as many categories as possible, especially the categories that are worth more.

The gradebook automatically does the following calculation:

.05*(average classroom work) + .05*(avg homework) + .10*(avg hw quiz) + .15*(avg quiz) + .45*(average test) + .20*(avg exam) = overall percentage
Category Average Weight Points
Tests × (0.45) =
Qtr Exams × (0.20) =
Quizzes × (0.15) =
HW Quizzes × (0.10) =
Classwork × (0.05) =
Homework × (0.05) =

The gradebook then converts this percentage into letter grades strictly as follows:

90% to 100%
A to A-
80% to 89.99%
B+ to B-
70% to 79.99%
C+ to C-
60% to 69.99%
D+ to D-
0% to 59.99%

(While plusses and minuses are indicated on the grade report, they are ignored and not used in computing the student's grade point average (GPA). Students are expected to bring a graphing calculator to the exam, and to be familiar with its use. Graphing calculators may be used for both sections of the exam.

Some activities are designed for developing concepts and understanding, while others focus on improving the way in which you communicate your mathematical knowledge.

To help motivate you to prepare for class, practically every class will have a quiz, a homework quiz, or a test. You are expected to prepare for these examinations by making sure you understand the assigned exercises. Test dates are found on the homework assignment sheet, as well in the new SFHS Portal. The TI-84, TI-84 Plus, TI-84 Plus Silver Edition are ideal for use on the AP Exam Exam (and is the reason that one of them is required for the course). Calculators with a "CAS" feature are not permitted on quizzes and tests. If your TI calculator is lost, I will permit the use of a Casio fx-CG50 since has a similar capability and is much cheaper.

iPad Use

Take advantage of the classwork sessions. The iPad will be used in the classroom and students are expected to arrive at each class with the device sufficiently charged. There are only a limited number of loaner iPads available in the IT room in the 100 building, so it is best to make sure your iPad is ready to be used. External battery packs are an affordable way to make sure you never without a charged iPad.

The pace and rigor of the class is such that any time distracted by the iPad will significantly impact a students' progress in a negative way. To help focus your attention, please double-click the home button and quit all communication and entertainment apps before class begins. Students will be expected to monitor their behavior with the iPads with little direction from the instructor. Any time or attention diverted by technology will result in a decreasing chance of a successful performance in this class, and will lower your classroom assessment.

As per the student handbook (pp 34-37), iPads must be connected to the supervised maraki wi-fi. I require you to be logged into Apple Classroom so I can see what app you are using (as well as when and how long). If you are not able to log in to Apple Classroom you may not use an iPad. If you are in violation of the school iPad policies (no SFHS approval, using your phone, using a VPN, watching sports, games, messaging, etc), the Dean of Discipline will be notified.

Extra Credit

The grade for this AP course is based upon mastery of the curriculum, so there are no extra credit assignments.


As per the student handbook, students are responsible for work missed due to absence the day they return. Make-up tests usually have more (or more difficult) questions. If you are present and a quiz or test is scheduled, you must take it. It is a good idea to have the contact information of several classmates to get notes on the material covered during your absence. The handbook (p 15) also mentions that "Credit may be withheld for students who miss more than 12 hours of classes in any given course in one semester," and "college visitations should be made during weekends, vacation periods, or during KAIROS retreats." Family vacations during class time are strongly discouraged, require a written request from the Dean of Studies two weeks in advance, and if permitted, are done so "... at their own risk."

If you miss a quiz you cannot gain any points for it. If you know you will be absent for a test, you may schedule to take it before the actual test date if prior arrangements have been made with the instructor. In the case of an extended illness special arrangements should be made with the Academic Dean, Mrs. Traver.

If you are absent, you need to make up tests and homework, but not quizzes. If you are absent on the day of a test, you need to make arrangements for taking the make up test. You need to take a make-up test the very next day (even or odd) you are back in school. No make-up exams will be taken during class time. Failure to be responsible will definitely hurt your grade.

You are also responsible for any material due the days you missed on the day you return. The exception is if you have contacted me and we make a special arrangement (usually due to being absent for a long time). As per the handbook, assignments due on days you have an unexcused absence must be scored zero.

If you are absent for any quizzes, there are no make-ups, but you will be exempt from taking it if it is an excused absence. If the absence is unexcused, you will receive 0 points for any assignments due that day. You should ask me for a copy of any missed quizzes and solve the problems on your own to make sure you understand the material. Quiz questions are often modified to become test questions.


The best way to learn Calculus is to do some homework every day (well, 5 days a week is fine).
  1. Please write your name, Block, and assignment on your homework.
  2. Homework is due at 8 AM on the date of the following class.
  3. The finished product should be neat, organized, and LEGIBLE.
  4. Like an essay, each solution should be written as though someone (your future self, a grader) will read it. In particular:
  5. Late homework assignments will not be accepted unless you had an excused absence.
  6. You are welcome, and in fact encouraged, to discuss Individual homework problems with classmates. But what you submit needs to reflect your own understanding of the assignment, and must be written by you, using your own words, graphs, and mathematical expressions.

Here is the Scoring rubric for textbook homework:

Even late Homework assignments should be completed as soon as possible so that you do not fall behind. Complete the work you are assigned on time, and you will receive the best grade you are capable of with the least amount of effort.

I am looking for effort on the homework. It is acceptable to have trouble solving problems, but some effort must be made. You will be penalized for incomplete assignments and only receive partial credit. The solutions to the odd homework problems are at CalcChat.com and nearly every problem at Slader.com . I will happy to post in Google Classroom any solution to an even problem that is not already on Slader. Used properly, this will help you understand how to solve problems at home. To get the best understanding of the material with the least amount of effort, you should do some homework every day (45-60 min a day, for 5 days as apposed to a block of 2 or 4 hours once in a while). You should attempt questions from every category on the homework the night it is assigned (while it is fresh) and complete the assignment by the day it is due. It is very important to understand the concepts, not memorize procedures.

If you don't understand certain questions in the homework, try watching the videos at CalcView which explain how to do the questions with an asterix (*). You can also come to room 101 before school for help (7:30 -8:00). There may be time to put some problems on the board at the beginning of class, but we can't spend too much time on that because of the new material we need to cover. I will try to check homework daily, but priority will be given to grade quizzes and tests first.


Tests cover all the material in the homework and classwork assignments. For many centuries, students took notes in class to help them study for tests. Thay's right, you don't have to wait until the night before the Test to start studying. When you take notes, you learn better (even if you don't look at them later--though it is better if you do). It still remains helpful for training your brain. Studies have shown that people have better retention writing notes than typing notes, even thought the typed notes have more detail. It still surprises me how many students think they have eidetic memory just because they own an iPad, and refuse to take notes.

AP Exam questions are designed to test your understanding of calculus, so a "bald answer" by itself is worth very little ( if anything ). To prepare for the exam, I too will be scoring in the same way so that you may achieve the best possible score on the AP Exam.

Partial credit is always given if correct concepts and steps in the solution are shown even if the answer is incorrect. Tests are difficult to make up because you will need to find a 60-90 minute period of time in your schedule; so don't be absent unless absolutely necessary. Tests are meant to challenge students and there are times when I will curve the scores for students who are current with their homework, but if a student is not making an effort on his homework, that student's score will not earn the curve.

Practice AP Exam Saturday, April 9, 2022

Continuing the helpful tradition of Mr. O'Connor, we will have a full practice exam at 9:00 to 12:30 a Saturday Morning (April 9, 2022). Students historically gain a lot in insight and confidence by doing this, and counts as two 90-minute tests. For three classes we will divide a Secure Practice Exam from the College Board which counts for 2 Test scores (The MC portion is one Test grade and the FR is the other test grade). The Practice AP Exam will be a big part of the grade in this class. We will go over the answers by class 4-13, so if you don't complete at least one of these Practice Exams by then you score a 0 for the missing portion(s). This is necessary so we can go over it before April 29, the last school day before AP Testing begins. Your Calculus test is 8:00 am May 9, 2022, but there are only 9 school days between April 9 and when you might be taking AP Exams for your other courses.

Other Policies

I expect student to bring their materials including an energized iPad and Calculator to fully participate. Be prepared to learn: if you did not complete the homework, you may not be able to understand the next lesson; if you did not get enough sleep, you may have to spend more time later to master a skill or gain an insight. All school rules will be enforced, especially the academic integrity and honor code. You don't have to be perfect, but you are expected to be faithful to the truth, and humble about your limitations. I promise to do the same. Together I hope we will be diligent in our efforts that you may eventually delight in the marvel that is Calculus!