For high school students who expect to graduate, math is a requirement up to at least the Grade 11 level.
A Dogwood diploma will require passing parks in Math 10 and at least Math 11, while some university programs demand Math 12 and Calculus 12 as well.
But not every student is cut out for the higher levels of math and the B.C. school system recognizes that by offering two other math streams -- apprenticeship and workplace mathematics and foundation mathematics. Each will give students graduation credits toward the school completion certificate program or a general education development secondary school equivalency certificate.
Just about every college or university requires a high school diploma and a certain level of math achievement and for many students, that math requirement can be a huge barrier.
"Mathematics seems to be a gatekeeper course," said Brian Hatcher, School District 57's district math resource teacher. "To be able to move on to something else after school, math seems to be the one that's holding an awful lot of students back.
"We've had three streams of math for the last four years and it's still a relatively new in the process, so the trades haven't seen the kids come through yet. The idea is if you take the workplace and apprenticeship mathematics, most trades will probably accept that, unless it's something like electricians where you need to have a way higher mathematics than apprenticeship and workplace."
Hatcher says it is a fallacy that any one of the three streams is easier or harder. Because the components of math covered in each program are so different, it's difficult to compare one with other.
"They are streamed for different reasons based on what you want to do with your math," he said.
"Apprenticeship and workplace math is, as the name implies, more for apprenticeship and everyday math. Then you have the foundations mathematics at the Grade 11 and 12 level for people who still want to go into university, but not to get into engineering or the heavy science programs. Foundations math will give you a good founding in things like statistics.
"Then there's the pre-calculus math that will get you ready for the algebraic, calculus type of calculations that are be found in mathematics, some of the sciences and engineering."
Many high school students who take calculus courses might never use that math again in post-secondary programs but take that course just so they won't have to go through upgrading if they ever decide to apply for a program which carries that requirement.
While Hatcher says it's great to give students the choice of what path in math to follow, many of those students have no idea at Grade 10 where their career ambitions will take them. They might struggle with pre-calculus courses when they could be getting top marks and better grade point average in workplace math.
It's a tough call.