MOWEAQUA – Ralph White just really likes math.
“I'm actually very good at it,” said the senior at Central A&M High School. “I just like numbers and like to learn about math.”
That talent convinced him to sign up for Central A&M's dual-credit calculus class with math teacher Todd Rork, who earned his master's in mathematics, which qualified him to teach the class.
“Central A&M is the only school that offers dual-credit calculus through Richland (Community College),” Rork said. “The kids have to take a placement test and if they test high enough, they can enroll in the class.”
Students receive five college credit hours for the calculus class at no cost to their families, giving them a head start on college. White said he can go right into second-year calculus and physics in college.
“I'm saving a whole semester, and being able to do that really helps (financially),” he said.
White plans a career in computer engineering, with an eye on enrolling at Richland for the first two years, and then possibly moving on to the University of Illinois for a bachelor's degree.
In the spring semester, the school will also offer dual-credit trigonometry. Unlike advanced placement classes, dual-credit counts as a college class without an extra examination. Successful completion of course requirements is all that's necessary.
Only two students signed up for the calculus class in the fall semester, but in a high-level math class, smaller is better, allowing Rork to work closely with the students.
“It's actually really cool,” said Lucas Lower, who plans to become a math teacher and will attend Eastern Illinois University next year. “Things are more personal. In some (large classes), most people 'get it,' and a few don't, and you have to just choose to move on.”
In those larger classes, Lower said, some students who aren't getting it are shy about saying so in front of everyone and fall behind.
“I appreciate that Mr. Rork took the time (to get a master's),” Lower said. “It's really helping kids out. We're one of those small schools that you'd never think would offer dual credit, but he took the time to get a master's degree and it's really paying off for the kids.”