Flipping through a 2013-2014 curriculum guide, Laura Campbell ’16 landed on AP Computer Science A, a college-level programming course that teaches object-oriented software design as well as Java. Campbell had taken programming outside of school, but this year was the first that it fit into her schedule.
“I’m doing computer science because it’s always interested me and it seems like a good skill to have, given how much our generation relies on technology,” Campbell said.
Campbell is one of almost 90 students enrolled in AP Computer Science A this year, a 72 percent increase from last year’s approximately 50 students.
This past year marked the largest increase the math department has seen since they began tracking the enrollment in 2005. Since then the number of students enrolled in the class has almost quintupled from 18 students to 88.
Math department head Paula Evans attributes the trend to three factors.
“First of all, handheld technology makes the utility of computer science pervasive,” Evans said. “Second, the tools to develop code are now easier to use. For example, on Tumblr, people are actually creating their own website. Simple social networking tools have made people see that it’s fun to get that designing power. Third, a cultural shift has made computer science popular.”
The increase in the last eight years is also due to a change in the approach of the department.
According to the curriculum guide, the prerequisite for enrollment is permission of the department, which generally allows those who want to take the class and do the work to enroll, as opposed to 10 years ago when middle school programming was necessary.
Some students still take middle school programming and use the skills they learned in AP Computer Science A.