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Can I skip College Algebra?

  1. Apr 30, 2010 #1
    I'm currently in Intermediate Algebra. Before Calc I was planning on taking Trig. But I read that I should take College Algebra first. Is is possible to skip it and go straight to trig before calc?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2010 #2
    Yes. Speaking from experience, I taught myself calculus without really having a strong background in trig nor algebra beforehand. Naturally you won't be able to fly through the material as you'll have to reference some things, but after that it is smooth sailing. I personally feel in retrospect that Calculus could be taught much earlier at a slower pace if they taught the stuff from algebra within calculus. Makes more sense than the current educational system that is basically tedious computations without any motivation.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2010
  4. May 1, 2010 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    Without knowing your background and circumstances I'm going to disagree with ABarrios. Although he/she didn't find the problems insurmountable, it has been my experience in teaching college math classes that students with weak backgrounds in the prerequisite courses don't do well in the follow-on courses. If you skip the College Algebra class you are likely to have problems following the presentations in the classroom and textbook, and you will certainly be at a disadvantage in comparison to your fellow students who took the class you skipped. You might be able to follow the actual calculus steps in doing a problem, but get bogged down with the lower-level algebraic calculations to the point of being unable to complete a calculus problem in its entirety.
  5. May 1, 2010 #4


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    Homework Helper

    In a number of schools, Pre-Calculus = College Algebra + Trigonometry. A number of schools offer Pre-Calculus in a two semester version (one for coll. alg. and one for trig) and a one-semester version (usually for more semester-hours). Does your school offer a one-semester version? (I'm assuming that you're in CC/coll.)

    If not, see if it is possible or allowed to take coll. alg. and trig. simultaneously. (Probably not, but I know of at least one high school district where taking both at the same time was allowed.) Or, see if you can take coll. alg. in the summer.

  6. May 1, 2010 #5
    I think college algebra is an important step. If there is a mistake I make in my calculus 90% of the time it's something I forgot from algebra. (I took it then took a break from school for about 3-4 years)

    Every now and again I almost think about taking it again just for a refresher.
  7. May 1, 2010 #6
    Are you taking a "survey of Calculus" or "Calc for business"? If so, then trig isn't usually necessary. Most courses that I've taught like that use calculus operations on polynomials, exponential functions, and logarithms.
    If you are taking "Calculus I, II, III"... that's a different story. The unit circle is your best friend. Knowing about odd and even functions will come in handy.

    There are some topics that are inescapable in Calculus, Differential Equations, and beyond. The most obvious one is FACTORING.

    Bottom line: take all the math that isn't way too easy for you. If you're in a time crunch, get a tutor and take an accelerated course. Otherwise, hunker down and enjoy the ride!
  8. May 2, 2010 #7
    I wouldn't recommend for you to skip College Algebra. See if you can take CA and Trig. simultaneously. Most of the people in my Calculus class say their Algebra skills are not up to par which is where most of their mistakes come from.
    Last edited: May 2, 2010
  9. May 2, 2010 #8
    Get a basic intuition of it, I personally am still unable to memorize some of the fractions on the unit circles. I just derive some of them if I need to.
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