AP Calculus AB with Karina Soto at MEK

AP Calculus AB with Karina Soto at MEK

AP Calculus AB with Karina Soto at MEK

MEK’s Advanced Placement Course & Exam Prep classes are opening in January 2023. We’re offering small group virtual classes and private tutoring designed to give students the strategies and skills to ace their challenging AP classes and earn a 5 on the AP exam in May.

This Spring, we are offering AP Calculus AB taught by expert instructor Karina Soto.

Ms. Soto is a graduate of Smith College and maximizes student engagement in her classes. She works to help students understand the thought process behind each step of a solution so they can master complex math concepts. She draws from her own experiences as a student to give advice and tips on the level of her students.

We interviewed Ms. Soto to get her insights as to what mindset students need to succeed in AP Calculus AB, actionable steps students can take to succeed in their AP Calculus AB classes, and how students can build confidence in their Calculus skills.

Read on to see what she had to say!

AP Calculus AB vs. AP Calculus BC

What’s the difference between AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC?

Soto: There isn’t really much difference between AP Calc AB and AP Calc BC. They actually overlap a great amount. 

Some of the topics you learn in AP Calc BC are sections that were skipped over when taking AP Calc AB. Other topics are genuinely new and necessitate a good understanding of AP Calc AB. Remember: AP Calc BC contains all of AP Calc AB and then some. So if you’re planning to take AP Calc BC, be sure to really pay attention in AP Calc AB.

Course Objectives & Strategy for AP Calculus AB

What skills should students have going into their AP Calculus AB classes?

Soto: I think it is important to go into AP Calc AB with the mindset that the subject isn’t about memorizing formulas and applying them. In the beginning it might seem like it, but as you delve deeper into the subject, understanding the concepts and what they mean is very important. 

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to AP Calculus AB students?

Soto: When you learn a new concept, try translating it into sketches and straightforward statements. You can also try explaining it to friends and family that don’t know calculus (if you can get them to listen). When you work on a problem, don’t just focus on getting the right answer. Really think through the process and understand the steps you are taking.

Does having a strong understanding of AP Calculus AB help students succeed in other AP STEM courses?

Soto: I remember when I was in high school, I took a few Physics classes and I was able to do most of the problems just using my knowledge of Calculus. When I was a Math TA in college, a few students came asking a few questions on their Physics homework, and I was able to help them using Calculus. Therefore, I do believe that a strong understanding of AP Calculus AB can help students succeed in other AP STEM classes.

Building Confidence

Why do some students find AP Calculus AB to be a difficult subject?

Soto: When I was in high school, many of my classmates would struggle with AP Calc because they would forget several concepts and what they meant. They also struggled to truly understand what the concepts entailed. In math, concepts don’t just mean one thing. Concepts build upon each other and so when you connect them, a myriad of statements follow.

How do you help students build confidence in their math skills?

Soto: When working on a problem, I constantly ask my students about their thought process. If the student is very lost, then I start asking questions to guide them in the right direction. Ultimately, I want the student to work through the problem themself, so that they know they are fully capable of solving the problem. 

When I was a student, I was always afraid that my way of thinking was incorrect. My fear got to the point where I couldn’t trust myself to work on a math problem. I was able to overcome this by talking to myself. I know it sounds weird, so let me explain. As I worked on a math problem, I would tell myself my thought process. If I felt uncertain about something, I would consult my notes and/or my textbook. Slowly, as I worked on more and more problems, I realized that my thinking was not wrong, and I started feeling confident in my math skills.

Progress & Skill Mastery for AP Calculus AB

What are your specific teaching methods for student engagement? 

Soto: Questions and discussions! I ask my students many questions, such as “How would you solve this problem?”, “What are your thoughts?”, “Any ideas on what the next step could be?”, or the dreaded “Why?” These questions elicit a discussion between the student(s) and me. We discuss their ideas and how they relate to the mathematical concepts they have learned.

How do you get kids to progress and master skills to succeed in AP Calculus AB in both the course and on the exam?

Soto: I have students acknowledge and truly understand the steps they take to solve a problem. This can take the form of writing down short explanations for each step, or having them explain to me their thought process. 

Actionable Steps to Success

What are actionable steps students can take to succeed in AP Calculus AB?  

Soto: Practice, practice, practice! When I was in high school, my teacher gave his class many AP Calc AB Practice Tests. I did every single packet he gave and I also did extra practice problems from the textbook. I did so many problems that when it came time for the test, I finished it as though it were just one more practice test. I did the same thing for AP Calc BC.

Next Steps

AP courses are tough and may seem intimidating at first. But with a solid study plan and good study habits, students can get high grades and ace the exams.  

Many AP teachers focus on only the course material, leaving students underprepared for the actual 2-3 hour exam. At MEK, we take a two-pronged approach to AP Prep. Through providing students with both lectures by experienced teachers and practice exams, students gain a solid understanding of the material and learn test-taking skills to maintain their performance under time pressure.

Click here to learn more about our AP Course offerings for Spring 2023!

Interested in registering for AP courses with MEK? Fill out our Registration Form to get started.

Or if you have questions, contact us! We look forward to hearing from you.

Elisa Sung

Elisa Sung is the Marketing Assistant and Junior Content Writer for MEK and is a recent graduate of Vassar College with a degree in English. She is passionate about creating and providing educational resources for parents and students in order to help families make the most out of their academic and admissions experience.

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