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St. Mary's Academy Blog

For a remarkable three years in a row, 100% of the young women in Iswari Natarajan’s AP Calculus classes received the highest score of 5 on the National AP Calculus exam administered by the College Board.   A total of 21 students in the AP Calculus AB and BC classes followed in the footsteps of previous students and, through hard work and thorough preparation from Ms. Iswari, excelled on the rigorous exam. Although some may have worried about the pressure to succeed again this year, “Ms. Iswari” helped them by focusing on the fundamentals she has relied on every year. She urges her students to relax and spends a significant amount of time building up confidence. “The heart of teaching math is to engage the students in a fun and meaningful way and to shift the focus from getting the right answer to solving a problem. The main objective of my classes is to build the confidence of students so that they can fearlessly approach any problem (math-related or otherwise).  My goal every year is for the girls to learn a lot more than calculus. I want them to learn to be risk takers, develop the courage to fail and the belief that they can conquer anything.” Kathryn McNamee, principal of the St. Mary’s Academy High School has worked with Ms. Iswari for five years. “She is innovative, energetic, and inspiring. Ms. Iswari is one of the most gifted teachers I have worked with in my 50 years in education. She uses a myriad of techniques and strategies to help students think and begin to use the language of calculus. Students who might not believe they can do calculus are consistently supported and reassured of their ability and work ethic, which allows them to feel confident as they approach the national exam.” AP Calculus students are full of gratitude for their experience in Ms Iswari’s class. Lexi Maerz, a recent SMA graduate, credits St. Mary’s Academy with helping her overcome her lack of confidence in math saying, “Because of what I learned in Ms. Iswari’s class, I am able to take a level 3 calculus class my first semester of college. Her focus on effort as opposed to innate talent gave me confidence in myself and inspired me to work as hard as I could. Before having Ms. Iswari as a teacher, I thought I was terrible at math; now I am pursuing a degree in engineering.” Lily Karbowski, a rising senior, credits Ms. Iswari with instilling her work ethic and making calculus fun, “The most important thing I learned from Mrs. Iswari was that no matter how hard of a concept we were learning, if we put the time and effort into it, it would come to us and she would always be there to make sure that happened… My favorite thing about Mrs. Iswari is that no matter what she was always proud of me. Never was she ever disappointed, she would just offer to give more help to get me to the place she knew I could get to. She made learning calculus fun.” Nationally, 18.6% of students who took the AP Calculus AB exam scored a 5. In the state of Colorado, the mean AP Calculus AB score for females was 2.88.