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Big Math Problem

  1. Sep 7, 2007 #1
    I'm a senior at high school, and now I'm facing a huge problem, and I don't think it's really my fault.
    My school offered Algebra 1 in grade 9, Geometry in grade 10 and Algebra 2+Trigonometry in grade 11. They never offered precalculus. And what makes it worse is that in algebra 2 in grade 11, the rest of the class was lagging behind. so the teacher had little choice, he went slower, and in the end we didn't even touch trigonometry at ALL!
    Hard to believe, so a big problem is that at the moment, I'm a senior at high school, who doesn't have any idea about calculus, precalculus, and even sadder trigonometry. Otherwise i did pretty good scoring 99s in quarters in math.

    A bigger problem is that our school requires at least 3 students in a class to offer a subject. Now students are taking statistics as a math credit. I want to take calculus because calculus and physics is going to be my field. i don't think it'll be useful for me to take statistics. The school isn't offering calculus. I plan to talk to the co-odinator and as him if he'll give me a calculus credit in my senior year if i take private tution, and in the end give the AP exam.
    I'm really interested in giving the BC exam.

    What to do? How to prepare? Where to start from? Suggestions? Ideas?

    Thanks a lot.

    EDIT: plus i'm giving my sat in november
    and sat 2 in math level1 + level 2 , and physics in december.
    that will be my last chance then the deadline for applying will come. I've registered for them,
    i dont know what to do. I hve no idea about trig how will I do level 2.
    There's so less time, so much confusion.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2007 #2


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    apples - interesting problem you have. Someone on the forum might suggest to you to study the topics that your teacher did not cover.

    One might believe that giving a full year of Algebra 2 is more common than combining it with Trigonometry. Some (or many?) highschools offer a Trigonometry+Math Analysis combination for students who already passed Algebra 2, and then title this combination course as "precalculus"; although that course then is somewhat weaker than Precalculus as taught in college.

    Your teacher did not finish with your combination Algeb 2 + Trig; so, what did he actually cover? Was it the equivalent of 'second year Algebra'? If he covered polynomials, their equations, functions, distance formula, quadratic equations & inequalities, completion of the square, conic sections, exponential & logarithmic functions, inverse of functions, direct & inverse variation, maybe a little bit on simultaneous equations, maybe a bit on arithmetic and geometric sequences and series; then he probably covered Algebra 2. [readers, be aware some regions do not give the exact same content for what is contained in "Algebra 2" as other regions].

    A course in Statistics is not a bad idea. A variety of professionals can make use of it. Maybe take it, if it is available; but if there is a course that stresses or emphasises Trigonometry, you might want that one instead.

    You could spend your own time finishing what might be missing from your Algebra 2 by studying on your own with any good used book. You could do the same with Trigonometry, but best to not try to do both at the same time.
  4. Sep 7, 2007 #3
    AP stat is less recognised in college. It is better to take calculus which will place you the same level as other physical freshman. Ask if any of your school teacher are qualified to teach Calculus. Get a standard Calculus book, study it by yourself and get help from that teacher.
  5. Sep 7, 2007 #4


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    The next question is, will he earn credit for this? The ideal result would be to learn "precalculus" well enough and retain it well enough to be able to start Beginning Calculus in college.
  6. Sep 7, 2007 #5
    I wouldnt try the Calc BC exam this year with no knowledge of precalc (exponential and trigonometric functions). Try to get into a precalc class to prepare you for next year. If you feel ambitious, start to look up the beginnings of limits and derivatives on your own, but dont take a whole class
  7. Sep 8, 2007 #6
    Calculus and Physics would probably be my majors in university.
    i really want to take AP calculus bc.
    I don't want statistics at all.
    We did Algebra 2.
    But we didn't do trigonometry. But i'll have to master trig by dec, because i'm giving the sat level 2 in it.
  8. Sep 8, 2007 #7
    As long as you learn the overview concepts of trigonometry, it's possible to jump straight to Calculus BC. In fact, one of my friends took Calculus BC without even going into pre-calculus and he did well in it.

    Bear in mind that if you choose to do this, it will be a big challenge, because you'll be missing out several in-depth material you're supposed to learn in pre-calculus.

    Unless if you have a specific reason of why you should take AP Calc BC in high school, I would recommend taking pre-calc (If possible, it seems like your situation is very unique) then calculus in college.
  9. Sep 9, 2007 #8

    Chris Hillman

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    High School Students are Too Often Cheated of a Chance in Life

    Wow, that's sad! You are right to be worried, unfortunately--- the SAT is the least of your worries, the real problem is this: mastering calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra opens the door to all the cool stuff in college (and in life), so you are being sent up at a terrible disadvantage.

    I'm guess you are American. Just curious--- what state?

    Sorry to say you have no attractive options at this point, but one thing you should not do is go off to four-year college with no math background. Forget the SAT and check out remedial math courses at your local community college. If you have a good attitude you can probably learn trig and precalc pretty well there, perhaps as a part timer. You can spend some of the rest of your time organizing a class action lawsuit against your school district (no kidding--- I sympathize with the teacher who didn't have good options either, but the situation you describe is nonetheless unacceptable and should not be tolerated by any community). After a year at community college, hopefully you will have some very good math grades and will be ready to take the SAT and more importantly, ready to tackle calculus and all that good stuff.

    You probably don't want to hear this advice, but you should perhaps ask the posters who urged you to plunge into college math and try to make up for the lack of preparation by dint of hard work how much experience they have teaching calculus at the college level. I've seen so many bright and hard working but ill-prepared students try this and almost always go under, because (particularly at a decent university) the pace in a good college is orders of magnitude more than they cope with.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2007
  10. Sep 9, 2007 #9
    Uh... I don't think you can major in calculus? XD
  11. Sep 9, 2007 #10
    Yeah, let's not get carried away here. There's no reason to worry this 17 year old into thinking his life is ruined and he's going to have to flip hamburgers because he couldn't take calculus in high school.

    The best course of action would be to take trig in a CC the summer before you start college. Then just take Cal I/II and Linear Algebra your first year in college and Cal III/Diff EQ in your third semester. There you are, just a sophomore and all of your lower division maths are taken care of. No biggie, life goes on. Your situation isn't ideal, but I would by no means fret about it.
  12. Sep 9, 2007 #11
    If he fully prepared but failed the AP exam, he would have to take calculus but not precal in university, correct? He won't lose anything after all. If he pass it, he can "choose" to strengthen his foundation again or move on to advnaced classes. As a forum viewer, I chose to believe that his determination is sufficient enough to pass the e exam, even he might not score well on the AP exam, he will learn enough knowledge that goes beyond precal.

    Let me tell my story for apples' reference. I was a foreigner and I was forced to take Algebra 2 in my junior year. So I asked the teacher to take pre-cal and algebra simutaneously. Just oddly enough these 2 classes' material coincided except the fact that pre-cal was a little bit harder. If one worked hard in Algebra, he will know 75% of precal.

    I also took both AP stat and AP cal during my senior year (one important point here, I was luckier than you because I fought for my luck). Calculus can be learnt with just knowledge of algebra 2 (and a lot of effort). From a academical point of view (now i have a BS in Maths and Stat, and continuing to study in a both maths and stat intensive field), AP Stat was a joke because it did not cover any beauty of probability and statistic. In fact, the AP exam was so badly designed that one would not experience the real power and beauty of it. On the other hand, AP cal at least shows beauty of mathematics in a very elementary level.

    After all credit is not the most important part of school, knowledge is. Work hard to go through AP exam (in your situation) might teach you what you can't learn in a regular college calculus class regardless you make a 5 or not.

    P.S.: Statistics is very useful in science related field (though not at undergraduate level). Havent you heard of Statistical Mechanics?
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2007
  13. Sep 9, 2007 #12

    Chris Hillman

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    A reasonable plan?

    Oh come now, huckmank; no-one told him his life is ruined or anything close to that.

    That said: apples, huckmank's suggestion, which is similar to if a little less drastic than mine, sounds like a good idea to me. Provided you focus on absolutely mastering trig and algebra this summer at that community college.

    BTW, apples, here's a thought which might help you to swallow the bitter pill: in my experience, AP calculus is usually a disaster when students who "placed out" hit real calculus in college. I can tell you that high school AP calculus courses in the U.S. are (with rare exceptions) no substitute for a genuine calculus course in a good university. So no need to regret not having studied "calculus" in high school (what appalled me so, in my lament above, was your not having been exposed to trignometry and analytic geometry).

    And I second what Leon said about statistics. It's much more interesting than the introductory courses can suggest. In fact despite being a well-known fan of gtr, I decry at every opportunity the hype given to quantum gravity or even the Millenium problems, in comparison to the much more important problem of resolving the question of what if any interpretation statistics admits. Look at all the tacit references to statistics and probability in this one thread! Isn't it odd that stat is the one mathematical thing everyone uses everyday (journalists, jurists, policy makers, and all those teachers grading all those exams), yet no-one knows what, if anything, probabilities imply about the real world? I recommend David Salsburg, The Lady Tasting Tea.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2007
  14. Sep 9, 2007 #13
    Policy makers use any number they like, not necessary have to be of statistical significance. lol
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2007
  15. Sep 10, 2007 #14
    I would not kick Statistics out of the way. Statistics sounds very boring (and often is a lower levels :p) but it is maths, and if nothing else will help you in other math areas by getting you used to doing math problems.

    It's pretty bad that your school does not have a calculus class, but I see no reason for you not to learn outside of school and sit exams through them. It is a very hard subject to just pick up a book and learn, however, so try get a tutor or someone to at least show you how things are done. It will be difficult, but if you want it, you can have it.

    Best of luck.

    Edit: after reading over your post again, you say you have no previous experience in calculus or trigonometry? I don't know where your course will start from, so you may need to talk to a coordinator and do a little study to catch up on the basics.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2007
  16. Sep 10, 2007 #15
    You don't need to make it sound so grim. What's the worst that happens he gets placed in college algebra for a semseter then takes calc one his next semester? It's really not that hard to do honestly.
  17. Sep 10, 2007 #16
    I want to take Calculus. I need a 4th math credit. I don't want statistics, Calculus is more of me.
    I'm not taking the AP exam because i'll get to skip college calculus. i'm taking it for two other reasons. one i'll get to know calculus, the other, it'll add to my AP list; might increase my chance of getting in my dream university. :)

    May is pretty far away. at least i think so. can't i get a private tutor, first learn trig, and then go straight to calculus?

    Then i'll take calculus again in university? or maybe i'll skip calculus 1.

    anyway. i've got a ti-89 titanium and dummies help book with me. but i still have no idea how to use the thing...

    I talked to my coodinator today. he said he'll have to talk to the principal first.
    and I really don't want to go to a community college.

    i've already registered for my sat 1, and the sat 2's. can't cancel it now...

    and i think i'm ready for college.

    What do you say?
    and can you suggest books for preparing ap calculus?
  18. Sep 10, 2007 #17

    Chris Hillman

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    Mathwonk, are you here?

    Feldoh, I will go out on a limb and guess that you have no experience teaching calculus at an American university. Anyone with college teaching experience has, unfortunately, seen many a train wreck which resulted from an under prepared student attempting a standard calculus course (or even precalculus). If I answered your question, "what is the worst that can happen?", you'll probably complain that again I'm being "too grim".

    I think you are too. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances you described, you are not ready for calculus, which is the prerequisite for any course worth the cost of tuition (call me biased!). A point very much in your favor is that you recognize this! (I've seen so many students caught by surprise.)

    Which is?

    Ambition is good, but the higher you reach, the more dangerous the consequences of a fall.

    Risk-taking is neccessary, but you should choose wisely which risks to assume.

    Have you studied analytic geometry? E.g., do you know how to sketch the graph of a curve defined by [itex]y=x^3+1/(x-1)[/itex]?

    Actually, if you can get permission to take a remedial trig course at the local community college during your senior year of high school, that would be a really good idea. The important thing is not to try to jump into a tough course for which you are not prepared.

    Go ahead and take it "for experience', can't hurt you, just plan on retaking it when you know more math.

    What about the Schaum Outline series? They are designed for self study. Come to think of it, I think they have a trig book too. But I very strongly urge you not to try to shove all of this into "self-study" because you need to really know this stuff, not simply to think you know it.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2007
  19. Sep 10, 2007 #18
    I can't take the SAT 1 SAT 2 for experience. I've already given the SAT 1 first, but I didn't score good in it. I'm retaking it.

    The only problem with me and community colleges is that there isn't any community college around. Why? Where do I live? Why don't I search online? Isn't that Impossible?
    Very very long story, I suggest you just go ahead and believe what I say.
  20. Sep 11, 2007 #19

    Chris Hillman

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    Ok, ok,I believe you!

    Can you purchase private tutoring in trig, then? If not, maybe you can work through a Schaum Outline book with the occasional help of your beleagured math teacher?
  21. Sep 11, 2007 #20
    My pre-calc class was a joke, I honestly didn't learn jack in that class. The teacher was suffeirng from some sort of disorder, he would mainly just talk about his life in the class and was retiring that year. He also showed us how he could do math tricks as he drolled. He was a good guy.

    Needless to say I took highschool calc without any help with pre-calc.

    I don't think you need pre-calc to do college calc. Some people don't have pre-calc, they have algebra 3 with trig.

    But you should know basic Trig before hitting up calc in college and really really be good in algebra. If your pretty good in algebra 2, you can pick up advanced algebra 2 concepts on the fly.

    Now that I think about it, from my SAT scores they recommend I don't take College calc and I would most likely fail. But I got straight A's in all my calc courses, calc 1, honors calc 2, and calc 3. Also in Diff EQ. Matrices and Discrete math A- and B+.

    So don't let test scores scare you either, you know your capabilities, if they say go into something lower than you think you should do, don't do it.

    Take the chance and take college calc if you are ready to work hard.

    From my experience calc concepts wasn't the problem students ran into, it was algebra concepts they couldn't do.

    Also I wasn't allowed to use any calculators in any of my math classes, I suggest you do the same and not depend on your calculator if you do learn how to use it.

    Once you start doing derivatives/integrals if you get into the habit of using your calculator when your stuck it may hinder your performance when it comes exam time.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2007
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