Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Scott, M. 2024. Curriculum for All: An Introduction to Calculus. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Maggie Scott 2024


Math is one of the only subjects that builds upon itself throughout a student’s educational career. Progressing through each course, students are taught concepts that build upon each other year after year. The content is engaged with itself, yet, it’s historically taught in a non-engaging way. Through my research of math education and my experience as a math teacher, it’s apparent that the most successful math classrooms are the ones that elicit student thinking and allow for self-discovery. (Azad)

Most people have very polarized views of math. Some love it, and some hate it, but almost all students can remember a math classroom filled with rote memorization and contrived examples. Students are taught to remember formulas and facts without learning the fundamental “why” behind the reason they’re important. This results in surface level understanding, low retention, and a general disdain for mathematics. Students will not learn in a classroom they hate, and thus, they often recant the notion that they are capable of solving math problems. Pushing the idea that math is about memorization and procedural thinking creates a deep divide in student understanding.

Oftentimes, when people recall their experience in a math classroom, they will say something along the lines of, “I just wasn’t a math person”. The idea of a math person is the biggest plague to math that has ever existed. This make-believe notion that people are pre-determined to be good at math turns off so many students from realizing their potential, and shuts out students from the classroom. We see time and time again that “math isn’t the hard part of math, motivation is” (Azad).In most districts, students are required to pass up to Geometry, and any courses beyond that are optional or reserved for “select” students. As a math educator, it’s my belief that every student is capable of achieving in a high-level math course such as calculus, and that it’s a student’s low self-efficacy that prevents them from pursuing such courses.

Throughout my college career, I’ve realized a passion for curriculum development. It’s something that I intend to pursue as I complete higher degrees, and for my senior thesis, I created a curriculum targeted towards students with low self-efficacy in math. The calculus sequence is generally a difficult set of courses that requires the motivation towards understanding. I created a hands-on, student driven curriculum designed to introduce difficult concepts of calculus to students at relatively any math achievement level