Last year, Sonoraville’s own Keershton Morgan scored 80th in Match I of the 2010-2011 AP Calculus Competition Online, said Ross, out of the over 15,000 students participating from around the globe.
The first match of the second competition, occurring this past November, attracted students from 40 states and about five countries. These numbers are up drastically from the first competition in 2010, attracting about 6,000 students, according to Ross.
The second match, which has already begun, registered 285 Teachers/Schools, 7,708 students, 45 states, Washington D.C., and 14 countries including: United States, Bahrain, China, Germany, India, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Guinea, Trinidad, Tobago, U.S. Virgin Islands, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, according to Ross.
The results are evident, said Ross, and as the competition grows as well as the number of participants, Ross is hopeful the number of perfect scores rises as well.
Ross utilizes a test making software at quizstar.com to offer the competitions online. From this website, he compiles questions from past tests and hosts a competition, to help prepare students for AP Calculus and AP Statistics exams.
The competitions do not contribute to a student’s AP score, but rather are for run and practice.
Additionally, Ross has hopes to soon add a BC portion, which is more advanced, to the Calculus competition. “The content of Calculus BC is designed to qualify the student for placement and credit in a course that is one course beyond that granted for Calculus AB,” according to collegeboard.com.
With this BC portion added, 20,000 participants next year is “not unheard of,” said Ross.
Ross has worked with the College Board’s, the body responsible for making and distributing the AP Exams, approval to offer more and more tests for the online competition and study guide resources for the real AP exams.
The competition is free to students and teachers to participate. Though there is not a “prize” for the winners, except for having their picture posted as one of the top 100 test scores; the competition remains fierce, Ross explained.
“There seems to be a lot of competitiveness within the groups. The students are very pleased when they make the top score, said Ross. “I post the top 100 students on my website and the top 10 teams. To make the top ten, it’s pretty awesome as far as the schools, but to make the top 100 is pretty awesome. That’s really when you’re looking at 5,000 or 6,000 students, that’s pretty awesome and that’s worldwide,” he said.
The competition offers a regimented two-week testing schedule in an attempt to accommodate the large number of participants from around the globe. Questions are given to students in random order from test to test, to make cheating an impossibility, explained Ross.
“It is a two-week window that the teachers can take their students to a computer lab or bring laptops into their classrooms and take the test and competition online,” said Ross. “The only thing I do require is the teacher proctor the test so they can verify they (teachers) were monitoring the student while taking the test, and if they have multiple classes, they (teachers) pick up the scratch paper so there is no cheating,” he said.
Cheating is an issue and there have been instances of it, but the students were disqualified. Possible cheating can be monitored by Ross and is directly addressed.
“That has happened a time or two, where I have had to contact the teacher and say this student is disqualified,” said Ross. “Those are never fun.”
Mock AP exams are available for students to practice any time outside of the competition. While not competing, students may access released tests to help prepare for the AP exams administered in the classroom to receive college credits.
Future of Teaching and Learning
By utilizing computers and online learning in his own class, Ross gives students an opportunity to learn at their own pace.
“I have about 200 maybe 300 tutorials on calculus on my website so students who are reviewing for the exam can go and watch a video tutorial about a specific problem,” said Ross. “I also have a homework website where students can log in and we can discuss homework in the evenings if they have trouble,” he said.
Ross also believes online learning and teaching is the future of education.
“Bill Gates has mentioned a lot about that. It goes with the free education that is being put out there and now I still totally support public schools and the school system and the programs,” said Ross, “but I do see that they are being more online in the future, and I think that’s somewhere we could go.”
Online test taking specifically, allows students to take mock exams and have results returned automatically.
Teachers can administer a larger number of exams for students via this competition because the computer generates results instantly, which means teachers do not have to spend the time grading the large number of tests taken.
“The online testing, especially with the economic situation we are in, to save some money, may be the way to go. There are a lot of teachers that do their videos at school and allow their students to see them at home,” said Ross. “If the students want information on how to do a problem the information is out there on the web and most of it is free.”
Online education and learning is even used at higher levels of education, and in the age of technology students relate better.
Not only does the online teaching and learning benefit students, teachers from around the world benefit by being able to statistically review what problems their students are struggling with.
Ross collects the feedback and distributes it to each teacher. After the competition, teachers have the ability to review the problem areas one month before the actual AP exams are administered, said Ross.
Currently the only school in Gordon County that participates in the competition is Sonoraville, but Ross hopes the other two high schools in the city and the county will soon participate.
“I would love to have our sister school Gordon Central and Calhoun participate, but this is just the second year and I haven’t sat down and talked to the other two just yet,” said Ross.
Ross has been teaching at Sonoraville for four years, and teaching math courses for 25 years. He is passionate about his students and their education, and credits the Gordon County and Calhoun communities for being as adamant about education as he is.
“The school system is great. We like the community supporting education. Calhoun is totally behind all three (high) schools in education and it shows,” said Ross. “It’s not the same everywhere and we are very fortunate to have the businesses and the community behind all three schools and it makes a big difference.”