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AP courses/exams for 8th grader: Calc BC, Phys C, Comp Sci A. Thoughts?

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DS is a rising 8th grader, and has been mostly home schooled. We may (or may not) put him in B&M school for the last 2-4 years of high school, but at least 8th grade will definitely be at home. Parents are not really familiar with American education system. We know the math and physics content, but our computer science knowledge is probably archaic.

So the question is whether to take these courses and/or exams, and which courses for which subjects, so we are looking for suggestions for course providers. It is an option to take the AP course, but not the AP exam (or do the AP exam in a later year, when DS is more mature and experienced). DS has been doing reasonably well in math contests for several years, but otherwise doesn't really have test taking experience.

The reason to try to get AP results is not only for college entrance, but also, in case he goes into B&M high school, to be in position to get appropriate course placements using AP credentials that might be considered more "official" than parents' claims and homemade transcripts - and this a reason to not delay the AP exams.


AP Calculus BC :

DS has (or soon will have) taken all the AoPS intermediate and discrete courses, so it makes sense to take AoPS Calculus next. (I had a thread about alternative Calculus courses https://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/682211-alternatives-to-aops-for-discrete-math-and-calculus/ but it seems the AoPS one would be best.) He'll definitely do the course, but there is just a decision about the AP exam.


AP Physics C : "Mechanics" and "Electricity and Magnetism" (2 courses, 2 AP tests):

The pre/co-requisites are just calculus (DS knows some now, and would take AoPS Calculus concurrently) but no previous physics is needed, so prerequisites should be fine. The physics looks pretty basic to me. Internet searching for AP Physics C course providers yields very few, and that search led me to find one option, UC Scout www.ucscout.org/courses (UC Scout thread here https://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/686499-anyone-used-or-know-about-ucscoutorg-uni-calif-sponsored-hsap-courses/) but I'd be interested to hear any suggestions for courses.


AP Computer Science A :

DS has never taken any Comp Sci course, but has used Scratch for some time, and knows a little Python, so is basically a beginner, but AP Computer Science A seems to have little prerequisites, just very basic math, and I've heard this is regarded as an easy AP (being equivalent to only one college semester). Is that right? There appear to be lots of course providers, so I am interested in suggestions.


So I am interested in course suggestions for these 3. I also want to hear if people think this is a good idea for a highly mathy 8th grader.


One logistic complication is that the AP exams (regular 4-15 May 2020, late 20-22 May 2020) clash somewhat with National MathCounts (either 9-12 or 16-19 May 2020, not sure which). I expect DS will go to NMC with a decent chance of making the list for top 56 out of 224, so this is a goal to prepare for, which conflicts somewhat with APs. I'm not sure how best to handle that. This clash is only for 8th grade.

 

Edited by HomeForNow

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4 hours ago, HomeForNow said:

The reason to try to get AP results is not only for college entrance, but also, in case he goes into B&M high school, to be in position to get appropriate course placements using AP credentials that might be considered more "official" than parents' claims and homemade transcripts - and this a reason to not delay the AP exams.

 

What is your son’s four year plan for high school? When does he hope/intend to start dual enrollment? What science is he going to take at high school? Does he intend to take AP Statistics and what math course does he intend to take in high school? 

My kid’s finished AP Physics C and AP Chemistry in 8th grade but they would have to take biology, environmental science, astronomy and whatever science the public high school has before dual enrollment. The private schools we toured are more flexible but would still expect biology to be taken in 9th to complete the three core sciences. They also expect AP Statistics to be completed before dual enrollment for math. Also parents would be responsible for transport to and from school to community college for dual enrollment. 

Initial 9th grade course selections locally were done by April in 8th grade before AP exams were taken. 

ETA:

Course providers we used:

AP Computer Science A - Edhesive (both, 2017)

AP Physics C - PAH Jeff Lanctot (both, 8th grade)

AP Chemistry - PAH/ChemAdvantage (both, 8th grade)

AP Calculus BC - AoPS Calculus then DIY test prep (DS14, 2017)

Edited by Arcadia

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if he took all these courses, what would you expect a bm school to provide? At our very competitive HS, calc BC is the highest math offered on that math track ( we offer stats as well; some schools offer either discrete math or alg 3 but I know of no school that offers 4 years of math courses AFTER calc BC). AP comp sci A is the hardest comp sci course. Physics C is the hardest sci course to qualify for in the school in that it requires bio, chem and then Physics 1/2 be taken first. If the child can do all these things in 8th grade, no HS is going to accomodate, so using them as solid evidence of placement does not seem very purposeful.

Also, Physics C is calc-based and should be taken after calculus, so I would rank these course in order from comp sci as the easiest to physics c as most advanced.

 

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One problem we encountered with early calc was that there were no classes beyond calc BC at the local hs.  In fact, only one school in the metro area offered classes beyond that level (calc 3, diff e, linear alg) and the rest had the child do dual enrollment at the cc.   Which still only offered 3 post-BC classes   

It was also our experience that dd still needed 4 years of math to be a competitive university applicant, so we held off and just focused on competition math for 8th.  Then dd never went to a b&m school anyways.

Computer science a is a ton of work, but I’m not sure I’d consider it difficult.  Definitely a different mindset than math, though.  As an adult, I watched other adults that were “good at math” drop out of intro computer science courses pretty quickly    

Physics C is kind of the same - a different way of thinking.   I personally had something like 20 post-calc credits before I did physics and I struggled, while dd took it concurrently the year after BC and did just fine.   No harm in only ending up doing one of the tests since he will still have to take bio/chem/whatever In HS.  

Also remember that some schools have competitive entry into AP. Classes or reserve them for certain grade levels, so just because he’s doing this now doesn’t mean he would be on the track you want him to be.  

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Thanks for the comments and course provider list. Arcadia, do you recommend the ones you used? Are there others to consider. (We're pretty much decided on AoPS for calculus. Do you just practice old tests after that?) I've seen several mentions of PAH for courses, and I see it's somewhat expensive. But is it also time consuming, and how flexible/inflexible is the schedule? DS doesn't want a schedule that is too heavy or inflexible, as there'll be times when he wants to focus on upcoming math contests.

As to the questions of if DS does this now, what happens for the next four years, there are too many variables and unknowns to make me want to postpone a course for fear of running into a problem with school or state rules. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for delaying a course, e.g. not doing Calc before first doing all the AoPS intermediate and discrete courses, and of course we don't want to do a course before DS is ready. I just don't want to be boxed in by restrictive school/state rules, though I know the problem is very real, and experienced it with DS's 2 month stint trying B&M school for grade 7.

Only the math is really accelerated (and it's not that rare), and two Math PhD parents should be able to figure out what he can keep doing in math (though we have to find the right resources). Doing AP Phys C early, is really just taking care of 1 one year science subject. The rest of the science sequence (e.g. bio. chem) would proceed normally and it would just bring some future physics one year earlier. Computer Science is treated as an elective, so doing it early shouldn't do too much "damage".

We always have the option to continue homeschooling (though we really need B&M school for some things). But the main option we are eyeing is a selective residential public school (not commuting distance), that has plenty of advanced courses (though they don't do much AP ironically), but it just has grades 10-12 (and many go for just 11-12), so they will be able to cater. Before that, for grades 9 or 9-10 we could homeschool, but also there are a couple of local schools that have enough courses at least for grades 9-10 (though they may not cooperate, pushing us back to homeschooling). I'm not that optimistic about the local schools, but I am quite optimistic the non-local grade 10 or 11 - 12 school, and that's what we're aiming for.

There are many possible scenarios, but I don't see much downside to trying for these AP credentials, as long as DS is able, and the decision to take the AP exam can be made later. Homeschooling is quite unregulated here, so we can be flexible in what we attempt.

 

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Be very careful, if you are homeschooling privately for high school and want to do BM high school midway through, then be prepared for them not to accept high school credits for homeschooled courses. I would find out now what they will and won't accept or you might find your son forced to repeat courses to satisfy the school's requirements. 

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^ Looks like we posted almost simultaneously.

The selective residential public school (not commuting distance), that has plenty of advanced courses and just has grades 10-12, said (at an off-campus info session) that they would (probably, the presenter said it, so it's not official) accept DS's AoPS course results for credit. All their students are transferring in after doing 1-2 years of high school elsewhere, so they are used to assessing everyone's incoming credits, so they leave with a 4-year transcript. I think they also have placement tests. But point taken. This would be 2-3 years from now. We will go on a day-long tour of the school sometime in the next year, and will ask questions about these things. Having some AP results, and also math contest results, may help for overall "credibility" of a homemade transcript.

Point taken though. There's a lot of warnings in these responses for me to think about.

But I'm also interested in course suggestions, and thoughts on the AP plan generally.

 

Edited by HomeForNow

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I know that even though Physics C can be taken concurrently with Calculus, the two students I know who did this both struggled bc you hit Calculus in the physics before you've learned it in the Calc class.  It make the physics class a lot harder.

My ds did Comp Sci and I think it would be doable as an eighth grader particularly for a dc with a good mind for programming. Programming can take a long time, though.  So, I think Physics C, Calc and Comp Sci would be a heavy load on top of English, history, foreign language for most eighth grader.

We also ran into the needing four years of math issue with my first who was on an advanced math track.  In middle school he seemed very math minded and headed in a STEM direction, by high school grad he was humanities all the way and still had to do extra math, which he didn't enjoy.

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3 hours ago, HomeForNow said:

Arcadia, do you recommend the ones you used? Are there others to consider. (We're pretty much decided on AoPS for calculus. Do you just practice old tests after that?)

 

It’s hard to recommend course providers as what works for my kids may not work for yours. They work for my two kids for different reasons.

DS14 use Barrons for MCQ practice and CollegeBoard past year papers for FRQ practice.

AP exam registration deadline is now in Fall (early November) instead of Spring (early March). You would need to look for a place willing to let your son take the AP exams now and probably pay up the exam fees by end October.

2 hours ago, freesia said:

We also ran into the needing four years of math issue with my first who was on an advanced math track.  

 

That was an indirect reason for DS13 to take calculus in 9th grade instead of 8th. It’s not fun finding math courses for DS14 since he doesn’t want to do any dual enrollment yet.

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One other question I would suggest you get answered before you commit to doing these APs in 8th grade is whether or not you need your B&M school to give high school credit for the courses completely. For example, in my area, they would only allow you to count math and foreign language toward high school credits, but not any other courses. So physics would not solve finishing a high school credit for science unless that is not a concern for you.

By any chance are you in CA? if so, you must be even more careful about this with the a-g approved courses which will affect you as well as how geometry will be validated. A non-issue for private homeschoolers, but a big issue in what your future institution will permit on the transcripts.

3 potential APs exams is a lot for an 8th grader who sounds like he has zero AP experience. The other issue is being able to secure a spot to actually test which this being the first year when registration has moved to October...no one actually knows how this is actually going to play out in terms of access.

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As for high level math, my older ds ran into trouble because the local university's classes were too easy and getting over there was too time consuming for a daily commute.  So after taking 2 classes and earning 100% when the Mean and Median were 60%, he chose to self study mathematics at home. He could go faster and deeper on his own.  But there was definitely a down side, MIT did not give him credit for this self-study but would have if he had taken the same courses at the Uni even though they were easier.  This means he will have to overload for 2 semesters to get his double major.

So as a Freshman, DS just finished a grad level math classes at MIT, but he only has credit for 2 undergrad classes.  MIT is nice that they didn't require ds to have officially taken the prereqs to take a class, but not all universities would allow this.  He just took the 5th course in a sequence of 5 with none of the prereqs. I'm not sure that I would change his path if I had to do it again because self-studying was wonderful for him, but there were ramifications for both the dual enrollment path (travel and too easy) and the self study (no official credit). A lot really depends on the policies of the universities and if they allow you to jump courses. Just a couple of things to think about.

Ruth in NZ

Edited by lewelma

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2 hours ago, calbear said:

3 potential APs exams is a lot for an 8th grader who sounds like he has zero AP experience. 

 

Looking at the AP exam 2020 schedule, it would be Physics C (Monday afternoon), Calculus BC (Tuesday morning), Computer Science A (Friday afternoon). It would not be a fun schedule even though it’s doable.

OP’s son can use the credit by exam route for calculus, physics C and computer science A if he pass the exams. That’s what my kids intend to do for their UC applications.

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I agree that OP's son can use credity by exam for her application, but that doesn't necessarily solve graduation requirements for the schools she is looking at. That is individual to the school. Some might let you test out. Others may not. There's no consistent policy on that. 

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I came back to comment that Mark T wrote this review about UC Scout's Physics 2 course in the pinned high school forum thread about physics courses.
 

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Definitely find your AP site now. I have one lined up for DD and haven’t even decided if she is going to bother to do the AP exam since she has a large number of college credits.

And I would also agree with looking at what counts in 8th grade. We ended up doing an on-paper grade skip for DD, because otherwise she would have had college credits in 8th grade that were not allowed to count on a high school transcript. 

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It sounds like you are working on your B&M backup plan...perhaps widen that to early residential college.   Anywho, your state ed website can tell you what the public school needs for a diploma.  All of your 8th grade APs are fine here, as schools are required to offer high school credit for 8th grade to the capable who did the courses.  looking at your state ed website will tell you how many of those credits apply to the diploma reqts and how the waivering is done. some of it is AP, some of it SAT, and you'll see the rest spelled out.

I'd encourage you not to neglect AP English.  Both of these course are much better than the grade level English courses.  The skills learned will be helpful in the future, especially the writing and defending skills.

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After some more discussion our plan is for DS to homeschool for grades 8-9, and then, if admitted, DS would go to the selective residential public school (SRPS) which only has grades 10-12. This school has a lot of higher level classes, with small classes, and individual attention, a focus on writing (even in STEM), and no multiple-choice tests at all. They actually probably do less APs than other academically focused high schools, and I expect they have high expectations without piling on mountains of pointless ambiguous homework like some kinds of academically focused high schools around here. We're pinning our hopes on this school, since all the other schools around here (academic or otherwise) have problems, and we really can't and shouldn't homeschool DS until grade 12.

So this gives us two years, grades 8-9, for DS to gain some APs, which would be useful for credit and/or prerequisites, for high school and/or college. DS is pointedly mathy, so it is only STEM where he is advanced not humanities.

We are ultimately hoping DS could get into MIT or CalTech, maybe a longshot of course, or else some other very STEM-focused (minimal humanities) college, with good needs-based or merit-based pricing (so a lot of colleges are excluded for economic reasons).

ETA: PS We are not in Calif, and DS does not plan to go to any uni there (except maybe CalTech), so I think the a-g system does not apply. I know I mentioned UC Scout, but that is just as a possible course provider that I came across, not any connection to Ca.

Edited by HomeForNow
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1 hour ago, HomeForNow said:

We are ultimately hoping DS could get into MIT or CalTech, maybe a longshot of course, or else some other very STEM-focused (minimal humanities) college, with good needs-based or merit-based pricing (so a lot of colleges are excluded for economic reasons).

Just an FYI, my ds has noticed that most students at MIT have reached national level in something - math, physics, music, robotics etc. He has friends who have won national cello championships, been on a robotic team that went to nationals, taken the USAMO, been to the national physics or chemistry or computing camps, etc.  I obviously don't know how admissions chooses kids, but in ds's opinion, focusing on one thing to a very high level seems to be an important piece of gaining entry for many kids.  

Edited by lewelma

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:

Just an FYI, my ds has noticed that most students at MIT have reached national level in something - math, physics, music, robotics etc. He has friends who have won national cello championships, been on a robotic team that went to nationals, taken the USAMO, been to the national physics or chemistry or computing camps, etc.  I obviously don't know how admissions chooses kids, but in ds's opinion, focusing on one thing to a very high level seems to be an important piece of gaining entry for many kids.  

DS is definitely pointy in math, so we definitely want to focus on the STEM/tech-y universities that appreciate those qualities, and which would best suit him. (I have read about how American universities, unlike in other countries, focus on broad academics and a lot of non-academic things, which is bad for DS.) So, what you say could be good for DS, but it depends on how well he could do. For example, he may eventually qualify for USA(J)MO, but may not do very well once he gets in. That might be a bit too ordinary for MIT. But MIT should be a goal, and I think focusing on STEM academics is the best approach, and also on math contests which give him a chance of reaching a decent level.

 

 

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