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New AP Math, Accounting Offerings Under Consideration

If the College Board were to create a new Advanced Placement math course, which subject would get your vote? Applied mathematics? College algebra? Differential equations? Something else?

This is more than a rhetorical question, as I recently discovered that, in fact, College Board officials are in the very early stages of contemplating a new mathematics offering. In addition, an AP accounting course and exam may eventually be developed as well.

I learned all this at the tail end of a conversation with Auditi Chakravarty, the vice president for AP curriculum, instruction, and assessment at the College Board. We were discussing still another AP topic that may be forthcoming, AP engineering, which I blogged about the other day. The College Board, along with engineering education advocates, for some time have been exploring this idea. It got me curious as to whether anything else is under consideration.

The impetus for the new math course is being internally driven by the College Board, Chakravarty told me, while the accounting push is coming from the field, especially from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), a national professional association for certified public accountants.

For math, Chakravarty said it's not at all clear yet what new course might be added.

"We don't know what it would be yet," said Chakravarty. "We have AP statistics, AP calculus, and AP computer science, so is there another? ... Is it college algebra? Applied mathematics?"

Recent College Board data show that participation in AP math courses has continued to climb significantly over time, though these offerings are still overshadowed by the more-popular AP U.S. History and English courses.

For the class of 2012, the participation rate for the two AP calculus courses was 282,000, up from 218,000 for the graduating class five years earlier. For AP statistics, the 2012 figure was 129,000, up from 82,000 five years earlier. Meanwhile, AP computer science—which includes significant math content—climbed from 11,700 to 19,100 over the past five years.

(College Board statistics count how many AP tests are taken by public school students in a given graduating class. I'm told that only a very small percentage of students takes the same test more than once.)

As for the development of an AP accounting course, Chakravarty said representatives from the AICPA recently met with the College Board to discuss a new set of recommendations that included an AP program.

"We've shared with them what our criteria would be," she said. "It's a little different because we don't have any AP courses in that applied-business type of area."

In doing a little digging, I discovered that the AICPA and other accounting education advocates for a number of years have explored the idea of an AP accounting course. In fact, I found an article published last year in the journal, Issues in Accounting Education, which described a pilot college-level accounting course, akin to an AP course, that is now being used in some high schools.

Indeed, the article makes clear that the ultimate goal of this initiative, the Accounting Pilot and Bridge Project, is to lay the groundwork for AP accounting. More broadly, the article said the project aims to provide a course that "attracts high-quality students, prepares them for the academic rigor of the college/university accounting curriculum, and gives them a clear understanding of the roles accounting professionals play in business and society." Indeed, it cites data suggesting that the accounting profession will experience a sharp decline in its ranks over the next decade because of retirements.

The article suggests a cultural objective of sorts for the project, to "help negate the less than flattering perception of the accounting profession held by many college-bound high school students."

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