Is "College Algebra" really just high school "Algebra II"?

In summary: I know that at my high school, Algebra II was only one semester. But regardless, it seems that College Algebra covers similar topics to Algebra II but goes into more depth and is more fast-paced. It may also depend on the university and the professor teaching the course. Overall, it seems that College Algebra is not just a repeat of Algebra II, but rather a more advanced and rigorous course.
  • #1
swampwiz
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I had learned everything in College Algebra in my Algebra II course in high school, and indeed (at least at my alma mater) in engineering, physics or math, no credit is even given for College Algebra.

Perhaps what is going on here is that colleges can't trust that someone who has passed (even done well in) Algebra II has really had that covered, and so anyone who doesn't do well enough on a tracking test (or by extension have a high enough score in Math on the ACT/SAT) can be told, "you need to take this as a prereq to everything else"?
 
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  • #2
Regardless of a student's history, having poor scores in a tracking test or the ACAT/SAT Math test should be enough to require some review. It means that they do not have a good working knowledge of the basics.
 
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  • #3
This probably depends on the university. My university did not offer "college algebra". At the same time, it did offer a course in algebra. This course treated group theory, ring theory, coset, ideals, principle ideal domains, geometric construction, fields and the beginnings of galois theory. Clearly, this is not "college algebra" at some other schools. You need to be careful what course you enroll in.
At the same time, I hope prospective employers know the difference. It may be hard to explain to an employer how you came out with a C in abstract algebra as a senior, and another applicant got an A in college algebra as a freshman. I had a similar experience when my employer saw courses in analysis, linear algebra, differential equations, functional analysis, mathematical physics, complex analysis, and probability theory, and then was asked, "But did you take calculus?" He did not know "honors" calculus (tests with proofs) was called analysis at my school.
 
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@mpresic that is frightening. What kind of job were you applying for if you don’t mind me asking?
 
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  • #5
Louis Leithold's "College Algebra" has in many American universities been a benchmark textbook. Difficult to find a copy today, but there must be one in your university's Library.
 
  • #6
I checked Amazon for Leithold. The one advertised there doesn't look to be the original. The latter is a hardcover, published by Macmillan; its cover is the following:
IMG_2582.JPG

Please, note that the book is about freshman's algebra, not abstract algebra.
 
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  • #7
mpresic3 said:
This probably depends on the university. My university did not offer "college algebra".
Same here. I recall that when I was there, some students were complaining that the university didn't offer such a course. The math department responded that a student admitted to the university supposedly had learned this material in high school and that they should go take college algebra at a local community college if they needed a refresher. I know one reason the department didn't want to offer a college algebra course is that none of the math faculty wanted to teach it. (I can't blame them.)

I think the university eventually gave in and offered a remedial math course, but it didn't count toward satisfying any requirements for earning a degree.
 
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  • #8
Often, college algebra is included in "precalculus" along with trigonometry, complex numbers, vectors and matrices, probability and combinatorics, etc.
The precalculus college course zooms through those subjects as a review.
 
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  • #9
The original posted question: Is College Algebra really just high school Algebra 2?

NO. It is just not that. Just one common example how differ: Polynomial Functions, their graphs, roots, studied in College Algebra but not in high school's Intermediate Algebra. Another common example is that Rational Functions are studied much more deeply in College Algebra, and not sure if or to what extent their instruction is placed in high school Intermediate Algebra.

The two courses do for sure overlap. You could say that College Algebra is just a more high powered form of Intermediate Algebra; but really they are two different courses.
 
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  • #10
PhDeezNutz said:
@mpresic that is frightening. What kind of job were you applying for if you don’t mind me asking?
Technical Writer, I grant you the employer wanted me to write spec sheets, so he may not have been famiar with the names of technical subjects and how they may differ from university to university.
 
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  • #12
symbolipoint said:
The original posted question: Is College Algebra really just high school Algebra 2?

NO. It is just not that. Just one common example how differ: Polynomial Functions, their graphs, roots, studied in College Algebra but not in high school's Intermediate Algebra. Another common example is that Rational Functions are studied much more deeply in College Algebra, and not sure if or to what extent their instruction is placed in high school Intermediate Algebra.
That actually sounds like exactly what we learned about when I took Algebra II in high school (many decades ago). We also covered matrices, combinations and permutations, conic sections, complex numbers, and probably a number of other topics.

symbolipoint said:
The two courses do for sure overlap. You could say that College Algebra is just a more high powered form of Intermediate Algebra; but really they are two different courses.
One big difference (to students) is the College Algebra is one semester whereas Algebra II is typically two semesters.
 
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  • #13
I think you will see all those topics in the high school text I linked in post 11. I also had all of them in my junior year high school course. But the same course name means something different in everyones experience.
 
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  • #14
vela said:
That actually sounds like exactly what we learned about when I took Algebra II in high school (many decades ago). We also covered matrices, combinations and permutations, conic sections, complex numbers, and probably a number of other topics.One big difference (to students) is the College Algebra is one semester whereas Algebra II is typically two semesters.
Maybe some regional changes or changes through time. A kind of course which had been available for high school students was something with an imprecise title of "Mathematical Analysis" which was something in-between actual Intermediate Algebra and "PreCalculus"; the true colleg precalulus being a combination of College Algebra And Trigonometry taught in community colleges and universities. This "Mathematical Analysis" course at the high school was a year long, and contained some stuff more advanced than Intermed. Algeb but not as full as "College Algebr"; and also contained some significant Trigonometry.
 
  • #15
vela said:
One big difference (to students) is the College Algebra is one semester whereas Algebra II is typically two semesters.
My direct awareness was that at least for high school, Algebra 1 was full year. Algebra 2 (known as Intermediate) was a full year. Algebra 2 could easily be understood as a continuation of Algebra 1; in that some things were explored more thoroughly and a few new things were put in. Later, in colleges, Elementary Algebra was one semester, and Intermediate Algebra was one semester. For the more advanced students, "College Algebra And Trigonometry" alternatively called "Elementary Functions" was one semester.
 
  • #16
I thought about this again, and I might have said this before, but:
Intermediate Algebra is a subset of College Algebra.
 
  • #17
Yes, because some students haven't taken Algebra 2 yet but they have already entered college, and this is why colleges label the name of Algebra 2 as 'College Algebra' to sound more difficult, but in reality, it's the same as Algebra 2 in high school. I don't know too much about other countries, but in the USA, high school students only need to take up to Geometry in order to graduate from high schools, this is the minimum requirement for math completion at US high schools, especially if high school students don't intend to major in STEM fields at college.
 
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  • #18
Course descriptions? Syllabi? No other way to know for sure. What these might have been decades ago may have later changed. When I have insisted about what I said, that was for long ago; but currently, maybe have been changed.
 
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  • #19
Usually, "college algebra" is high school Algebra I and Algebra II if it is a one year course, and high school Algebra II if it is a one semester course. It is remedial and often doesn't count towards the credits required for graduation. Sometime, some pre-calculus is sprinkled in.
 
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  • #20
ohwilleke said:
Usually, "college algebra" is high school Algebra I and Algebra II if it is a one year course, and high school Algebra II if it is a one semester course. It is remedial and often doesn't count towards the credits required for graduation. Sometime, some pre-calculus is sprinkled in.
Way way different from my understanding. OR have times changed?

Too much in "College Algebra" is missing from "Algebra 2"; and my understanding is that College Algebra is not a remedial course.

edit: I really have no memory that I actually made post #18.
edit: And no memory that I made other posts in this topic, too.
 
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  • #21
ohwilleke said:
Usually, "college algebra" is high school Algebra I and Algebra II if it is a one year course, and high school Algebra II if it is a one semester course. It is remedial and often doesn't count towards the credits required for graduation. Sometime, some pre-calculus is sprinkled in.
That's my understanding of the course as well. UT Austin's description for the course "College Algebra" seems to lineup with that understanding as well. UT even says it does not count towards a math degree and is usually only offered in the summer, which to my mind is indicative of a remedial course.
 
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  • #22
symbolipoint said:
NO. It is just not that. Just one common example how differ: Polynomial Functions, their graphs, roots, studied in College Algebra but not in high school's Intermediate Algebra. Another common example is that Rational Functions are studied much more deeply in College Algebra, and not sure if or to what extent their instruction is placed in high school Intermediate Algebra.

The two courses do for sure overlap. You could say that College Algebra is just a more high powered form of Intermediate Algebra; but really they are two different courses.
Then I took College Algebra in high school 50 years ago! I would venture to say that my Algebra course of 50 years ago was more rigorous than many college algebra courses taught in most state universities and certainly community colleges.

Our Algebra II class included some analytical geometry, and toward the end, some differential equations, which we were also doing in Chemistry (chemical reactions and reaction rates) and Physics. The head of our high school math department taught Calculus with Analytical Geometry, and she coordinated with the Algebra II teacher, so that students taking Calculus were well prepared. The Algebra II class expected students to have had Geometry and Trigonometry, which I did at a different high school.

On the other hand, when I was graduate student teaching undergraduate introductory engineering courses, I encountered freshman students who struggled with basic word problems that seemed to me to be at an 8th grade level (that was 40 years ago).

Certainly, there are differences among schools, even among those in the same municipal/metropolitan school district, as well as across the state and from state-to-state.

As a result of my high school program, I started university at the 2nd year (sophomore) level.
 
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  • #23
Astronuc said:
The Algebra II class expected students to have had Geometry and Trigonometry, which I did at a different high school.
Parts of that seem very strange. The ordering of Algebra II and Geometry can be switched. Geometry course may contain some beginner bits of Trigonometry but that which be contained as part of the Geometry course is not the same as a full-term Trigonometry course. An Algebra-II student already taken a full course of Trigonometry? Maybe this was not what you were saying.
 
  • #24
symbolipoint said:
Parts of that seem very strange. The ordering of Algebra II and Geometry can be switched. Geometry course may contain some beginner bits of Trigonometry but that which be contained as part of the Geometry course is not the same as a full-term Trigonometry course. An Algebra-II student already taken a full course of Trigonometry? Maybe this was not what you were saying.
I was referring to my experience Geometry+Trigonometry, which I did at one high school. I was in an honors program (which was called Major Works in that school district). My class did the Geometry course (normally 2 semesters) in one semester, then we did a year's worth of Trigonometry in one semester. A typical student in that HS would have done Geometry (10th grade), Algebra II (11th grade) and Trigonometry (and maybe Analytical Geometry, possibly pre-Calculus). I changed high schools between 10th and 11th grade, so I took Algebra II (including some trigonometry and analytical geometry) in 11th grade, and Calculus (with more analytical geometry) in 12th grade. The second HS was on the trimester system, so both years were essentially 1.5 years (condensed into 9 months) when it came to STEM. Classmates went to universities like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Caltech, . . . . . , and some when to the state universities. I went to a private university (majoring in physics) for a few years then transferred to a state university with a nuclear engineering program. I probably could have gone to MIT, but I would have had to go into debt to do that; my parents couldn't afford it, and I basically paid my way through university, and helped my parents to send my siblings to university.
 
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  • #25
Astronuc said:
I probably could have gone to MIT, but I would have had to go into debt to do that; my parents couldn't afford it,
I remember my father’s reaction after I got in. “My God, they want a third of gross.” I went elsewhere.
 
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  • #26
MIT financial aid meets full need. However, what they think you need and what a sane person thinks they need can be quite different.

What? You want Macaroni AND cheese?
 
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  • #27
I'm again on thin ice here but from what I've heard from college mathematics introductions some start courses simply assume that pupils didn't understand or pay sufficient attention during high school and thus start from scratch quickly going through the basics just in case.

I was surprised when I saw a college math 101 course starting from stuff I already knew from the early years from what is called "gymnasium" here in Denmark.

Stuff like polynomial division and interval notation like "[2, ∞[" (Did I remember that correctly?).
 
  • #28
sbrothy said:
I'm again on thin ice here but from what I've heard from college mathematics introductions some start courses simply assume that pupils didn't understand or pay sufficient attention during high school and thus start from scratch quickly going through the basics just in case.

I was surprised when I saw a college math 101 course starting from stuff I already knew from the early years from what is called "gymnasium" here in Denmark.

Stuff like polynomial division and interval notation like "[2, ∞[" (Did I remember that correctly?).
"College Mathematics" might include many different instructional levels. Especially a community college could go as low as Basic Arithmetic, consumer Mathematics, which would be well below the high school level; and may offer Pre-Algebra, Geometry, Elementary and Intermediate Algebra, maybe some others, being about high school level but still are below the college level. Courses as Statistics, Trigonometry, College Algebra, "Elementary Functions", would be some of the college level courses; and then some others.
 
  • #29
sbrothy said:
I'm again on thin ice here but from what I've heard from college mathematics introductions some start courses simply assume that pupils didn't understand or pay sufficient attention during high school and thus start from scratch quickly going through the basics just in case.

I was surprised when I saw a college math 101 course starting from stuff I already knew from the early years from what is called "gymnasium" here in Denmark.

Stuff like polynomial division and interval notation like "[2, ∞[" (Did I remember that correctly?).
In the US, that would be written as "[2, ∞)"
 
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  • #30
Muu9 said:
In the US, that would be written as "[2, ∞)"
Yes, and the US notation is still found in most texts; yet, I find the "[a, b[" more intuitive: Only one symbol is used and the impression that the interval is now "open" to the right is more apparent. And it's not new at all, for it has been taught in Europe well before the 80's.
 
  • #31
I also find the US notation unintuitive.
 
  • #32
sbrothy said:
I also find the US notation unintuitive.
When it is taught, it very quickly makes sense and becomes quickly understood when seen written and easily producible when writing.
 
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  • #33
sbrothy said:
[2, ∞[
Sorry for the tangent, but ...
What does the ,∞[ part mean? I understand if you write [2,b[ you mean everything from 2 up to but not including b. But when you put the upper limit as ∞, it is unbounded, right?

So I am asking, what's the difference between [2,∞[ and [2,∞] ?

Or [2,∞) and [2,∞]
 
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  • #34
gmax137 said:
Sorry for the tangent, but ...
What does the ,∞[ part mean? I understand if you write [2,b[ you mean everything from 2 up to but not including b. But when you put the upper limit as ∞, it is unbounded, right?

So I am asking, what's the difference between [2,∞[ and [2,∞] ?

Or [2,∞) and [2,∞]
[2,3] is a closed set - near 3, there's a point (namely 3) which is in the set but all of it's neighboring points to the right are not.

[2, 3[ (or [2,3)) is an open set - near 3, even though the points to the left of three are in the set, three itself is not, therefore there is no right-most boundary point where you can say "this is in the set but any numbers to the right of this are not".

Personally, I don't like the bracket-only notation, as it seems to suggest that ]2, 4[ represents the complement to [2,4] or the complement to (2,4) (i.e all the number outside that range) rather than just the open set (2,4).
 
  • #35
Yes but my question was, does it make any sense for a closed set to have "infinity" as an upper bound?
 
<h2>1. Is "College Algebra" the same as high school "Algebra II"?</h2><p>No, "College Algebra" is not the same as high school "Algebra II." While both courses cover algebraic concepts such as equations, functions, and graphs, "College Algebra" is typically more advanced and covers additional topics such as matrices, logarithms, and complex numbers.</p><h2>2. Do I need to take "College Algebra" if I already took "Algebra II" in high school?</h2><p>It depends on your academic goals and the requirements of your college or university. Some schools may allow you to place out of "College Algebra" if you received a high enough grade in "Algebra II" or if you pass a placement test. However, if you plan on pursuing a degree in a math-related field, it may be beneficial to take "College Algebra" to build a strong foundation.</p><h2>3. How is the difficulty level of "College Algebra" compared to "Algebra II"?</h2><p>Again, this can vary depending on the specific curriculum and instructor. However, in general, "College Algebra" is considered to be more challenging than "Algebra II" due to its more comprehensive coverage of advanced algebraic concepts.</p><h2>4. Will "College Algebra" prepare me for higher level math courses?</h2><p>Yes, "College Algebra" is an important prerequisite for many higher level math courses such as calculus, statistics, and linear algebra. It provides the necessary foundation and skills for success in these courses.</p><h2>5. Can I skip "College Algebra" and go straight to Calculus?</h2><p>It is not recommended to skip "College Algebra" and go straight to Calculus. "College Algebra" covers fundamental algebraic concepts that are essential for success in calculus. Skipping this course may put you at a disadvantage and make it more difficult to understand and apply calculus concepts.</p>

Related to Is "College Algebra" really just high school "Algebra II"?

1. Is "College Algebra" the same as high school "Algebra II"?

No, "College Algebra" is not the same as high school "Algebra II." While both courses cover algebraic concepts such as equations, functions, and graphs, "College Algebra" is typically more advanced and covers additional topics such as matrices, logarithms, and complex numbers.

2. Do I need to take "College Algebra" if I already took "Algebra II" in high school?

It depends on your academic goals and the requirements of your college or university. Some schools may allow you to place out of "College Algebra" if you received a high enough grade in "Algebra II" or if you pass a placement test. However, if you plan on pursuing a degree in a math-related field, it may be beneficial to take "College Algebra" to build a strong foundation.

3. How is the difficulty level of "College Algebra" compared to "Algebra II"?

Again, this can vary depending on the specific curriculum and instructor. However, in general, "College Algebra" is considered to be more challenging than "Algebra II" due to its more comprehensive coverage of advanced algebraic concepts.

4. Will "College Algebra" prepare me for higher level math courses?

Yes, "College Algebra" is an important prerequisite for many higher level math courses such as calculus, statistics, and linear algebra. It provides the necessary foundation and skills for success in these courses.

5. Can I skip "College Algebra" and go straight to Calculus?

It is not recommended to skip "College Algebra" and go straight to Calculus. "College Algebra" covers fundamental algebraic concepts that are essential for success in calculus. Skipping this course may put you at a disadvantage and make it more difficult to understand and apply calculus concepts.

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