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Alg II or pre-calculus?

  1. Apr 9, 2012 #1
    I'm currently a freshman in High School, and saddly I was forced to take Geometry this year. For years I've been wanting to move up a math class. Our school offers a chance to test out of a course. So, this means that I would be testing out of Alg II to get into Pre-Calc as a Sophmore. I'm also enrolled to Pre-AP Chem and Pre-AP Physics for my sophmore year and I think being in Pre-Calc would help me a significant amount more than Alg II. Basically I'm asking for advice on rather or not to test out or stay in Alg II. In case you wondering, yes, I am assuming that I even pass the test-out.(I would be taking an online summer course for Alg II, so it isn't like I would go into the test completely blind). Also, would anyone advise taking AP Chem and AP Physics my Juniour year?

    Pre-AP = Pre Advanced Placement.
    AP = Advanced Placement.
    Thanks, Josh.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 9, 2012 #2
    I am/was in a similar position to you (currently a Junior) so I can only give you my experience, but hopefully it can help.

    The deal with Algebra II is that you will be expected to know it cold in pre-calc, and especially in calculus. I personally have skipped a math class (though not Alg II) and my experience is that if you are positive that you know the material than skipping a class can do nothing but help, but if you don't actually know the material you are skipping, it could be disastrous.

    My school runs in half year semesters which means I never had to face the problem, but my advice would be decide if you truly do want to skip the class that you take the summer course very seriously, and I would also recommend renting an algebra II textbook (college libraries often have them) to help with that.

    Regarding APs, its harder and an increased workload, but I along with several people I know take AP level classes junior year and don't have trouble with it. If you are up for the challenge, I would say go for it.

    I hope my advice can help, though in the end it should be what you feel would be most beneficial.
  4. Apr 9, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the help, and I would be getting an Alg II book from my school to use during the summer.

    I have about 3 weeks of wrestling camps that would require me to be away from home during the summer, I do have a laptop so the online courses would still be a green light.

    One of them is for two weeks in Pennslyvania(I live in Kansas). It would be very difficult to take the online courses and complete the course work with 7 hours a day of constant wrestling, but I feel as if I don't dedicate myself to getting into Pre-Calc it will harm me in the future with various things.

    What course did you skip, and how would you rate the complexity of Alg II and Pre-Calc?
  5. Apr 9, 2012 #4
    What exactly is algebra II? Basically everything before precalculus? So parabolas, zero product property, factoring, polynomial division, and that sort of thing?

    If that's the case, and you have the time, and you are SURE that you will stick with it, I would suggest you just skip it. Learn the topics on khanacademy or from a textbook, do a TON of examples and make sure you are comfortable with EVERY topic. You really need to be a master at all that sort of stuff.
  6. Apr 9, 2012 #5
    Algebra II is not that hard, so you should test out of it. As for physics AP your junior year, you should only do that if you are taking AP calculus your junior year. AP physics is a calculus-based physics course to be taken with AP calculus (normally during your senior year). AP chemistry, on the other hand, is easy mathematically, so you can take it with no difficulty your junior year as long as you understand algebra I. In fact, the only reason people do not take AP chemistry their sophomore year alongside AP biology is that they are usually taking non-AP chemistry their sophomore year.
  7. Apr 9, 2012 #6
    Our school is set up differently, were required to take Bio our Freshman year. Or else that would of been a possibility, and yes I do hope to take AP calc my junior year. Thats why I need to take Pre-Calc my sophmore year!!!

    Can any of you guys give me recommendations for good science/engineering colleges? It would be GREATLY appreciated.
  8. Apr 9, 2012 #7
    Re: Summer course for alg II and pre calc

    What's the date of the Pre-Calc test? You could teach yourself Algebra II by the start of July, assuming 8+ hours of studying per day in the summer (in addition to around 20 hours a week from now until the end of the school year) then teach yourself precalc in the roughly 50 remaining days of summer (from July 1st - August 20th) assuming 8 hour days again. If there are 180 school days, class for 1 hour a day plus one hour of homework comes out to 360 hours, which is less than the 400 hours (at least) you could put in over summer.
  9. Apr 9, 2012 #8
    I would highly recommend khanacademy, I skipped Calc 1 and khanacademy helped me out incredibly while self-teaching.

    On a slightly unrelated note, I'd actually never heard of the zero product property until you just mentioned it, though of course I knew the idea. I'm surprised my teachers have never used that word before.
  10. Apr 9, 2012 #9
    Just out of curiosity, why do you want to do calculus junior year and not senior year?
  11. Apr 9, 2012 #10
    Bearded Man, Im not looking to test out of Pre-Calc, Just Algebra II.

    Vorde, Ive looked into khanacademy, but ive also seen various sites with summer courses on them for alg II that have textbook(e-books).
  12. Apr 9, 2012 #11
    I would definitely advise the summer course, but if you ever want some extra conceptual support khanacademy is a great supplement.
  13. Apr 9, 2012 #12
    Thanks for the help, hopefully this all goes through on the up-side!

    Vorde, have you conducted any research for physics or anything to that extent?
  14. Apr 9, 2012 #13
    I haven't, though I've applied for a research internship this upcoming summer. I know people who have done it earlier than me however and I think the general consensus is the earlier the better. But I didn't have any interest in doing it until now.
  15. Apr 9, 2012 #14
    I had a similar situation to you at one point. Personally, I was very glad to test out of my high schools pre-calculus class as opposed to the algebra-2trig course. But if you haven't dealt with trig yet, and that is the primary focus of Pre-calc, then you should consider self teaching the algebra two and knowing it to the dot. Personally when I went to test out of pre-calc, I actually ended up doing more than just that and taught myself calculus 1 and 2 in the process. The nice thing about teaching yourself is that you will be able to go as fast as you feel able. Also, this is the site I used to teach myself most of these things: http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/ Good luck to you!!! :)
  16. Apr 9, 2012 #15
    Thanks RicciFlow!

    Vorde, would you recommend doing research my sophmore summer? And how exactly do you get into a research intership?
  17. Apr 9, 2012 #16
    You seem smart. You can probably jump straight into Calculus 1 over the summer If you already know some basic algebra, and know how to graph simple functions. Any advanced algebra you run into while studying calculus you can probably pick up on the fly (provided you have an algebra text close at hand, or an internet connection).

    I left high school very early age for example. I never even finished Geometry, let alone Algebra, Algebra II, or Pre-Calc. Yet, the first time I picked up a calculus text I didn't find it all that difficult.

    I'm not saying I'm a genius or anything. It's just that learning the basics about derivatives and integrals in Calculus 1 doesn't require you to do any advanced algebraic tricks. It's more about being able to internalize abstract new concepts like ratio stabilization and infinite sums (respectively). Being able to do that is really just a function of being interested enough to put in the required time and brain power.

    When you see your first differentiation problem in your Calculus 1 textbook it will probably be teaching you how to differentiation the function f(x)=x^2. Yet, none of the matrix math, vectors, advanced polynomials, trigonometry, complex numbers, logarithms, or exponentials that you learn about in Algebra II or Pre-Clac will be of help to you on that problem, because all that is required to start Calculus 1 is really just some *very* basic algebra and a hefty pool of motivation.

    If you'd like, PM me and we can swap IM address. Maybe we can talk for a bit and I can try to judge if you have those requisite basic algebra skills. I can even give you an informal intro to basic Calc 1 ideas if it looks like you're ready, and if you're willing.
  18. Apr 10, 2012 #17
    I will definitely PM you so we can further talk about this.

    I'm not to sure, but I think the education systems were accustomed with have their differences. Would my pre-calc be equilivent to your calc 1?

    And with the topic of textbooks, my school would provide me with an Alg II book.

    The test out for Alg II is in the first week of August, meaning that I would have from the start of summer to further educate myself with the required Alg principles.

    Also, I would really appreciate your help via IM.
  19. Apr 10, 2012 #18
    He could learn Calc 1 over the summer, but I don't know if he should. It might be best to wait until he's more "mathematically mature" and introduce him to calculus a la Spivak or Apostol instead of teaching him differentiation like "carry down the exponent and subtract one...".

    OP, what do you want to do with your life? Or what do you want to be when you grow up?
  20. Apr 10, 2012 #19
    I'm not sure that this is the right way to go about things. I personally skipped alg II and precalc and went right to calculus, but at a more calculatory (no pun intended) level, then later did Spivak & Apostol. I think this is actually optimal, as it gives more intuition to applications, and allows further studies in differential equations at an earlier time (you don't need Spivak level calc to do ODEs). Even if he wants to be a mathematician, whats wrong with replacing pre-calc with elementary calculus?
  21. Apr 10, 2012 #20
    I skipped straight from Trig to Calculus 2, and I definitely benefited from the skip, but I wouldn't advise skipping pre-calc and Alg II. Even though its possible to self-teach all of it, to be proficient in calculus you really need to be super comfortable with all math before it, so I think I wouldn't advise skipping pre-calc as well as Alg II.
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