Underclassmen turn upperclassmen early

How three sophomores are taking AP Calculus


Nabila Wilson

Annelise Do prepares for her AP Language and Composition test. “I try to get as much done in class and during lunch as possible so I can have time for clubs and other hobbies like baking when I get home,” Do said.

Until he was 10 years old, sophomore Alexander Rubin didn’t speak.

“I have a little thing called general apraxia which makes basic motor functions, like speech, harder,” Rubin said. “In addition, I have visual snow syndrome. Imagine static of old TVs but overlay that onto your vision. At night, it’s even worse so sometimes I see things that don’t exist.”

Rubin is also one of three sophomores taking AP Calculus this year.

“I know in the future I want to do something with neuroscience so I can find out why I am the way I am,” Rubin said. “That helps motivate me.”

From sixth to seventh grade, Rubin used an online homeschool program that allowed him to complete the equivalent of six years of classes. However when he tried to re-enter public school, Rubin hit a few speed bumps getting credit for everything.

“I completely understand this since the system I used said things like ‘evolution is fake,’” Rubin said. “In the end though, I was able to get registered at Bellaire.”

During freshman year, Rubin took 10 classes with three online through the Grad Lab.

“Because of homeschool, I took Pre-calculus, English 4, Government and Economics, all typically senior-level classes, when I was a freshman,” Rubin said. “Honestly, I think they just put me in a bunch of random classes because I had the prerequisites.”

So now in sophomore year, Rubin has two off-periods, no English class and takes Calculus.

“You could definitely say I’m doing things a little backward,” Rubin said.

After participating in online school for over four years, returning to in-person this year was a big shift.

“During middle school, there weren’t even deadlines because it was all asynchronous,” Rubin said. “Knowing ‘x plus x is equal to 2x’ is great, but knowing how to complete everything on time? That’s a helpful skill that I just never gained. Now, I normally take a nice approach of throwing all my homework in my backpack and hoping I can find it again.”

Annelise Do is another sophomore who isn’t taking the normal class route.

“It all began in elementary school,” Do said. “Almost every morning, I would do math through Khan Academy. I was good at it, so I kept going.”

All of that practice allowed her to completely skip seventh grade math.

“I used to live in the suburbs and we didn’t have an advanced math program like Pin Oak, so I had to take a course by exam to skip seventh-grade math,” Do said. “I got into Algebra 1 which was all eighth graders. That was the first time I started taking classes with people older than me.”

The next year, Do moved to a new private school.

“That’s where I really got ahead because they just let me take any class I wanted,” Do said. “In eighth grade, I had geometry and English 1 with all of the freshmen because it was a 6-12 school. Since I didn’t know anyone, it didn’t make much of a difference that I was with ninth graders instead of eighth graders.”

Sara Shen puts the finishing touches on a painting in her 7th-period art class.
“I’m able to balance out academics with two arts which really helps me focus more in my other classes,” Shen said. (Nabila Wilson)

Do said changing schools every year wasn’t all bad.
“I used to be really shy, but moving forced me to come out of my shell and actually talk to people,” Do said. “I also have so many experiences talking to students with different backgrounds so now I’m less scared when I meet new people.”

In the summer between eighth and ninth grade, Do took Algebra II online through Texas Tech.

“It was during COVID-19, so I was really just bored and had nothing else to do so I thought ‘why not get ahead’,” Do said.

During freshman year, she took HADV Pre-calculus online until finally, this year, she entered AP Calculus BC.

“Some people treat me like a younger sibling which I actually appreciate because they give me advice,” Do said. “The only downside is a lot of people just assume that I’m a genius and place these expectations on me which aren’t true.”

In addition to Calculus, Do has other senior-level classes like AP Macroeconomics and AP Government.

“Since I’m surrounded by upperclassmen all day, that’s also who I’m friends with,” Do said.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m going to do when they all graduate. I’m not sure.”

Do said being constantly surrounded by higher grades affects her self-perception.

“I feel a lot older than I am,” Do said. “It makes me scared of time passing but it also motivates me to get work done.”

Do uses Notion, a productivity software, to organize her life.

“I think everyone should use it,” Do said. “I create a to-do list throughout the day and it feels good when I cross everything off.”

Since Do takes AP Calculus BC as a sophomore, she will do something no one at Bellaire has ever done before: two years of Multivariable Calculus.

“Basically, you learn through Khan Academy,” Do said. “I’ll take it twice, learning multivariables junior year and differential equations my senior year.”

Fellow sophomore Sara Shen’s journey has paralleled Do’s in multiple ways.

“I passed a test to get credit for Algebra 2 over the summer between eighth and ninth grade,” Shen said.

This allowed her to take HADV Pre-Calculus freshman year and now AP Calculus BC.

“Especially for Calculus, I go to Mr. Mazzoni’s tutorials throughout the week and try to start studying early for tests which really helps,” Shen said.

Shen said all of her advanced classes don’t make her feel weird.

“I’ve never gotten crazy reactions when I tell people I’m a sophomore, “ Shen said. “One of the good things about Bellaire being so big is that not everyone knows each other so grade level doesn’t matter much and generally, everyone is really nice.”