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Is taking trigonometry and college algebra at the same time a bad idea?

  1. Dec 20, 2012 #1
    My professor is advising me against this. Also my friend who is an ME is advising against this as well. I am not sure why. I enjoy math and grasp the concepts pretty fast.

    A little history, I was a nursing major, but soon realized I wanted more than that. I was then torn between becoming a biochemist or just a chemist. After working in a laboratory for almost a year I decided against both. Ultimately I chose to go the engineering route. With nursing school very little mathematics was needed so I only needed intermediate algebra. I aced that course and felt comfortable with a great deal of it.

    I work full time and the algebra course is taught on campus while the trig is online. Both by the same professor. These are the only two classes I would be taking this semester.

    I am currently at community college before I transfer to the university in the fall. I am in a pickle because I am a bit behind on math courses.

    I have the option of taking both of these classes together in the spring, OR taking algebra and econ in the spring and taking trig and precal divided among summer I and II. I was also informed that precal in the summer may be torture and I may not learn enough from trig in the summer to make a long lasting impact for use in calculus.

    I tried to place out of some of these classes, but that did not happen.

    What is it about trig and algebra that would conflict so much that it would be so bad? From what I hear college algebra is just barely a beefed up version of intermediate algebra with a bit extra added in such as matrices and such.

    I am just trying to figure out the best route to take so I can actually learn this and not just pass with a letter grade. Thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    If you have any questions I will respond later on as for I am working the night shift at the lab and need to get some sleep.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 20, 2012 #2
    If you are going towards engineering, math is paramount for your education. If you have previously attempted testing out of some of these classes, and were unable to, do you think it wise to try and pack two classes into a semester?

    You may be good at math, and you might do very well if you take the combined offering, however the pace will be fast, and the depth of the material will suffer. You may wish you had a better understanding of both Algebra and Trigonometry when you make it to Calculus.

    I am also working towards an engineering degree, and having been out of school for several years, I'm a little behind on my mathematics as well. I was in the same position as you and felt that the College Algebra/Trig class would be a good way to get a little ahead and save some time. I ended up having to withdraw the class because I found it too fast paced and was unable learn the material properly given the time constraints. And now, having been through Calculus I, I can say, you will use the heck out of Algebra in that class, and I'm fairly sure I will be seeing plenty of Trig next semester in Calculus II.

    I'm sure plenty of people have taken the combined class and come out on top. I just hope you consider the possibility of cheating yourself later on if you don't get the depth you need from these classes.
  4. Dec 20, 2012 #3
    Thank you for that feedback. I am going to take the wise advice and just take algebra and macroeconomics next semester.

    What about taking trig and precal in the summer? Any thoughts on that? If I waited to take trig in the fall it would put back my education about a whole year. What do you suggest?
  5. Dec 20, 2012 #4


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    Taking such Mathematics courses in a summer session is a bad idea. You might try ONE of them if you are ordinarily strong in Mathematics, especially if you already studied the same course thoroughly before.

    Learn College Algebra well - Need at least a semester.
    Learn Trigonometry well - Need at least a semester.

    "Pre-Calculus" is a combination course of College Algebra and Trigonometry. The idea is to use a one-semester course to prepare a student for Calculus 1. The two different named parts are not taught at the same time; one will follow the other, splitting during the semester term. Can't know for sure how any part may be abbreviated or otherwise rearranged at your school, which is something you would want to check.
  6. Dec 20, 2012 #5
    College algebra is a lot of precalculus stuff, but the precalc is more in depth (at least for me it was)
  7. Dec 20, 2012 #6
    Precalc is just a mix of trig and algebra. You shouldn't take BOTH algebra and pre-calc. Usually the school has an algebra class for non science majors and a pre-calc class for science majors. Most people dont take both. I would just go ahead and take trig or pre-calc if I were you.
  8. Dec 20, 2012 #7
    If you plan on engineering, you should be able to handle algebra and trig simultaneously. Failing to do so might be a good indication to consider another major...
  9. Dec 20, 2012 #8


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    When you APPLY them in your courses or your job then you must use them as needed including simultaneously. When you are first LEARNING them, doing them as separate courses not simultaneously is better, much better. When you STUDY TRIGONOMETRY, you must also keep and use most of your mid-level Algebra skills.
  10. Dec 20, 2012 #9
    As someone who is in upper div math, and physics. Let me tell you the most important thing to know absolutely well is algebra. Everything is just algebra. Calculus is just manipulating algebra. Physics is basically algebra, sometimes calc thrown in for good measure. A lot of very important equations are algebra.

    Algebra is the single most important class you will take, honestly. Pre-calc is just a rehash of algebra and trig basically. The reason for that is because of how unbelievably important it is.

    Learn the HELL out of algebra.
  11. Dec 21, 2012 #10
    Thank you to everyone who has given positive feedback. I decided to just take algebra next semester and take trig in the summer. I still have not gotten feedback on whether taking trig in summer is ok, as well as precal. Thanks
  12. Dec 21, 2012 #11
    I think taking trig and precalc is kind of redundant, because you will be learning mostly the same things. Precalc is like throwing algebra and trig into one class and cutting out some of the unnecessary things.
  13. Dec 21, 2012 #12


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    The extra review could be helpful. Still, doing a Trigonometry or Algebra course in class during summer session is not good. If you try this, then at least begin your study as soon as the Spring term ends and do not stop studying until the Fall term begins. Summer sessions are usually about 6 weeks, which is insufficient time to learn these mathematical courses.
  14. Dec 21, 2012 #13


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    It's not redundant if the student didn't do well, or feels uncomfortable with the material.

    More general advice to the OP: I know you feel like you're behind in math and so you want to catch up quickly. But be *very* careful: lots of people think that because they're comfortable with math and extremely motivated, they can skip some steps. Most of the time they're proved wrong! They end up having to go "back to the end of the line". Sadly, some give up at this point.

    You're laying down the critical foundation to your engineering education. Don't rush it, do it correctly :smile:!
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