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Did I Need Algbra 2 before Pre-calculus

  1. May 29, 2009 #1
    I'm self-studying math, and after algebra 1 and geometry i moved onto pre-calculus. When I looked at the content between algebra 2 and pre-calculus they looked very similar and so i just began with pre-calc. But i'm afraid i made a mistake doing this although i'm having no problem with precalc so far. I want to finish pre calculus and trigonometry to begin calculus. Will me not learning algebra 2 affect my performance in calculus. Again, i'm self-studing at a very young age and i'm already ahead of my peers and i'm doing this for physics. Is this a good path to follow?

    Thanks in Advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 29, 2009 #2
    I skipped algebra 2, and regretted it. Your mileage may vary.
  4. May 29, 2009 #3
    The answer to this is "yes" and "no;" my textbook may have been different from yours, so this may vary. Pre-calculus is like a review of algebra 2 with some new topics sprinkled in, but that's it--a review. In other words, it can be very difficult to learn what you need to learn of Algebra 2/trig from Pre-calculus. You need to master Algebra 2 and trigonometry in order to do well in calculus. When I took pre-calculus, it just did not cover them in a proper depth (or maybe detail is the better word?) for that kind of mastery.

    Pre-calculus books will assume that you already have taken algebra 2 and trigonometry, and they will "teach" it as such. Thus, the problems are usually harder than parallel problems from an algebra 2/trig book; it will not try to explain the concepts from them as much; and pre-calc may gloss over or entirely miss some intricate details that an algebra 2/trig book would have covered. So you don't really "need" to take Algebra 2/trig if your precalc books covers it all at the proper depth and detail, but the concepts that you learn from Algebra 2/trig must be completely mastered. Let me remind you that I'm speaking from my own experience, and yours may be different, but this is what my precalc book was like.

    I didn't skip algebra 2/trig, and I didn't regret it.

    If you're really desperate to get to calculus so quickly, so long as you can actually learn the concepts of algebra 2/trig and precalculus at the speed I'm about to mention, you can do what I did. I took algebra 2/trig at a normal rate in one year. Then the next year, I accelerated through Pre-calculus, finisihing it within 3 months. Then, I started calculus to be finished within that same school year. Note though that I could not possibly have finished precalc so quickly if I hadn't had already mastered from the year before the enormous amount of algebra 2/trig review inside precalculus.

    Also note, that if your GPA starts dropping or you feel yourself not picking up the concepts well enough, then stop and slow down. Calculus is vital for physics later on, and it is important that you learn it, and thus the prerequisite subjects, very well. There's no need to rush things, after all, if you are indeed very young.

    But as the above poster says, it really depends on you. I'd add to that that it depends on how you learn, your text, your teacher (or tutor if you have one, in this case), your supplements (if any), and how quickly you learn.
  5. May 29, 2009 #4
    Can i substitute algebra 2 with precalc because the supplement i'm working with has almost the same content and dosen't expect you know algebra 2. It dosen't cover that much trigonometry so i'm thinking of doing that seperatly. I think that's equivalent to the algebra 2/trig combination. And don't worry i'm not really rushing through things, i take my time to make sure i understand everything.
  6. May 29, 2009 #5
    I was required to take analystical geometry after algebra as a prerequisite to calculus. It was a completely irrelevant prerequisite. I hope they were happy with the extra government dollars my time in class brought them. It was called 'precalculus', instilling it with an aura of legitimacy.
    Last edited: May 30, 2009
  7. May 30, 2009 #6


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    For what it's worth:

    I left high school knowing pretty much zero math beyond the basic algebra and geometry classes I had in 7th and 8th grade.

    When I got my act together and started college, I started with Calculus. I had no problem at all catching up. If you have some talent and motivation, and the material in Precal is not crushing you, I wouldn't worry about it.
  8. May 30, 2009 #7
    Personally, I skipped precalculus and while I didn't struggle with calculus, I had to pick up things here and there on the fly. Moreso in differential equations than in calculus though. I would imagine it would be similar with skipping algebra 2 only simpler. As mrb said, if you have the ability to quickly learn new things without much explanation if any, and you're motivated enough, it's certainly doable.

    Although, as I pick up new things I had previously missed, I always wonder what else I missed out on. So if you are going to skip, better sooner than later.
  9. May 30, 2009 #8
    In high school I TRIED to skip algebra II, and they wouldn't allow it because they would have run out of math classes for me to take (and at the time they didn't have a cooperative course credit set-up with the local university).

    Our book was lightweight (seemed to be a review of my eight grade Algebra I). In addition, my first teacher in the course was also lightweight; she seemed more concerned about our ability to keep a notebook according to her standards, than about our mastery of math. I at least misbehaved enough out of boredom that I was allowed to switch to a better teacher the second term (who made available enrichment exercises and materials, and didn't require note-taking!).

    I still think I could have done without it (I'm one to hold a grudge). But again, as the above poster notes, it depends on your experience.
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