By Parker Ferguson

Summer break for high school students is usually a time of relaxation, days by the pool, and long nights with friends. The thought of school is constantly shoved to the side, as we desire to make the most of every free moment we have during the weeks away from the high school. However, senior Zachary McDaniel had different plans for his summer break. McDaniel set out to teach himself an entire year of Calculus this past summer.

“For the first two weeks of June and the last week of summer I got a Princeton review book out and studied Calculus AP,” McDaniel said. “The book that I used really just broke it down for you; it was nice. It told you exactly what to do and it gave you the problems.”

A good book may aid in this process, but self-teaching Calculus 1 takes dedication and natural ability.

“It was probably like 3 hours a day [I was studying].”

Most high school students would not devote three hours a day to reading for pleasure, let alone self-teaching calculus. McDaniel did try to spread the love, or in this case the calculus.

“I asked a few friends if they wanted to do it with me before school, and they all denied it.” McDaniel said with a laugh. “They all just said it wouldn’t be fun.”

McDaniel’s summer studying has set him up well to advance from Calculus 1 into Calculus 2.

“I think it went pretty well, I mean, I probably don’t understand it to the extent other kids in my class do, but I know I could probably catch up with them eventually,” McDaniel said. “In my Calculus class I’m in right now, we still have to use Calc 1 stuff all the time, so eventually I’ll get used to it.”

McDaniel did have to prove that he had learned an entire year of Calculus before he could place into Calc 2.

“I think there was like two IU tests that you take when you get into Calc 2 and it suits where you’re at in Calc 1, so I just took those two tests in two study halls.”

Natural mathematical ability and dedication will serve McDaniel well throughout his career.

“I want to do AeroSpace engineering, which is a lot of calculus and other math like that.”

Rarely in our modern day educational system does a student have enough proficiency to skip a class, or have the natural ability to self-teach a year of Calculus during three weeks of summer. Yet, this is exactly what McDaniel did. Hope sitting around the bonfire and laying by the pool was worth it, because while you were relaxing Zachary McDaniel was teaching himself advanced math. Years down the road, when he is an AeroSpace engineer, we can appreciate that the Calculus he uses everyday to solve some of the most advanced mathematical equations, he taught himself out of a textbook during summer break.

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