AP Economics enrollment doubles, 2 teachers added

Chronicle Staff

The number of students taking AP Economics nearly doubled this year, increasing from four to six sections, and requiring two new instructors to teach the class.

The difference is credited to a change in the prerequisite for the class, an increased level of interest in the subject among students, and mathematical and sociological aspects of the class that appeal to a wide range of people.

“It technically is a math class and a social science,” Dean Sharon Cuseo said. “It’s appropriate for people who are both interested in social sciences and math.”

“I think there are two things going on,” math teacher Kent Nealis said. “One is that there’s a greater interest among students about economic issues. Students are more aware now about the world and they ask a lot of questions and they want answers. There’s been a national increase in the field of economy.”

“The second part is an effort by the math department to make the AP Economics course accessible to a larger amount of students,” Nealis said. “We did change the prerequisite for the course.”

Before, at least a B+ in Pre-calculus was required. Now, a B+ or higher in the lower-level Pre-calculus: Trigonometry and Functions is necessary.

“I think the previous prerequisite was unnecessarily restrictive,” Nealis said. “A number of students who would have benefited from the course did not take the course.”

Nealis, who has been teaching AP Economics since he came to the school in 1991, is will be joined by math teacher Kevin Weis and Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin.
“It was not a matter of finding who we have who’s as good as Mr. Nealis, because there is nobody,” Levin said.

Levin studied economics at Princeton University and Stanford Business School.
“My suspicion is that a lot of kids are taking it as a pre-business course, and the reality is that the application is a lot broader than that,” Levin said. 
“You look at decision-making thoughtfully.”

Weis’s background is in quantitative analysis, but “economics is really nothing more than applied mathematics,” Nealis said. “He understands what I’ll call the economic way of thinking.”

“There’s been a rather remarkable interest among the student body in economics. I like to think that the word has gotten out that it’s a great course. It prepares students for college and for their continuing educational endeavors, and it prepares them to be critical observers of the world around them.”