Honors vs “Regular” Classes

It is course registration time for the high school students and the question has been raised about the difference between honors-level and “regular” classes. I shared the following information with our students and parents regarding the difference between the two:

A typical honors-level class goes “deeper” into the subject matter and allows much more exploration of the content area. As a result, there is typically a greater demand on the student to work harder and learn more. If students are eventually considering any AP (Advanced Placement) courses for college credit, then honors-level coursework will help prepare them for the demands and rigor of those courses, too. It is also true that college admission officers like to see a breadth of coursework and challenges on a student’s transcript. Honors-level courses help demonstrate their commitment to learning.

I thought the following list from the Washington Post provides a good overview of “Who is a successful honors math student?” I encouraged students to ask themselves if this description applied to themselves as learners for any subject area. If so, I would recommend considering an honors option (and many did, too!)

The honors math student is one who:

  • Considers math to be one of his/her favorite subjects.
  • Is a critical thinker and enjoys exploration and problem solving.
  • Always wants to understand and not just rely on memorization.
  • Does not expect or need every step of a problem “spoon fed” to understand.
  • Can easily recall concepts and skills learned in previous math classes and incorporates these skills into new concepts being taught without having to be told or re-taught the old skills.
  • Is self-motivated.
  • Has excellent attendance.
  • Is willing to do homework every night.
  • Works well with other students.
  • Is bored if a math class moves to slowly.
  • Feels a responsibility equal to the teacher’s to ensure that he/she is learning as much as they possibly can.
  • Won’t be too frustrated by learning what may seem to be useless skills because he/she knows that high school is primarily a time for building those skills in preparation for future advanced studies in math, engineering, chemistry, medicine, etc.
  • Is not simply taking an Honors math class to look good for college, but is also taking it because he/she wants the challenge of a harder course.

Overall, I was left with the sense that this list describes a high school student engaged in his or her learning.


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