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Studying Precalculus—How to prepare

  1. Dec 16, 2017 #1
    Hey all. A quick question in regards to preparing for PreCalculus. I would ask my advisor, but she is a "General Education" advisor as I won't have a physics advisor until I complete PreCalculus.

    A little back story- prior to this last semester, I hadn't been in school for ten years. So I opted to take a math prep class which covered basic algebra. This course covered things like solving quadratics, factorization, graphing, basic functions, logarithms, radical equations, etc etc.

    Next semester I'll be taking College Algebra and Trigonometry concurrently. For the algebra, I feel pretty well prepared. However, I don't know much about the trigonometry. I'm spending the time between semesters to prepare for these upcoming classes and I'm looking for a little insight into preparing for trigonometry.

    Here's my question. I have an extremely basic understanding of geometry. So I'm wondering if my time would be better spent preparing for trigonometry by studying geometry, or to just study the trigonometry right away? I'm not sure how well I need to know geometry for this so I'm not sure where to focus my time.

    Any help would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 16, 2017 #2


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    A student CAN effectively study Trigonometry , as long as he is strong with basic and intermediate Algebra.

    To prepare for Pre-Calculus, learn Introductory AND Intermediate Algebra very well; and if possible, study a one-semester course of Trigonometry.
  4. Dec 16, 2017 #3
    Im not entirely sure what you mean by Introductory and Intermediate Algebra and a single semster of Trigonometry. At my university, there is College Algebra and there is Trigonometry. Both of which are a single semester. So I dont have any other options other than these two. What "level" of Algebra would you consider College Algebra to be?
    The class I completed was basically a preparation class for College Algebra and the only options now are the two I listed. The university allows students to take both classes at the same time as theyre considered two separate components of Precalculus.
    So as far as Algebra, Im prepared as I can be in regards to coursework. What Im not sure about is the Trigonometry which is why I wonder if I should focus on studying that or Geometry before my class starts.
  5. Dec 16, 2017 #4


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    What Mathematics could you or did you study in high school?
    The typical sequence of course at the secondary level, maybe approximate in some places, would be
    • Basic Math/Arithmetic
    • Maybe or maybe not Pre-Algebra
    • Algebra 1 or Introductory Algebra
    • Geometry
    • Algebra 2 or Intermediate Algebra

    The order or which first and which later between Geometry and Algebra 2 can vary but in high school is usually done in that order shown.

    College and maybe some universities will have the same courses. The Algebra which comes after Intermediate level is College Algebra. How it is different is that it is more advanced, deeper than Intermediate Algebra. While in Intermediate Algebra the course teaches rational equations and some applications, College Algebra teaches rational FUNCTIONS; just one example of the difference. While in Intermediate Algebra the course teaches about polynomial equations and some factoring, and gives good instruction about quadratic equations, in College Algebra the students study polynomial functions and learn about Rational Roots Theorem, Factor Theorem, Remainder Theorem, and some applications exercises; just one other example of the difference.

    College Algebra, as named, is a College or University level course. It is the next step course after Intermediate Algebra.

    You could fairly well review introductory and intermediate algebra on your own, before taking College Algebra. Check with your university, or community college about course which you might want to enroll into for study if that is the way you want.
  6. Dec 16, 2017 #5
    Thanks for that reply. With that description I can tell you it was Intermediate Algebra. We did rational and complex equations, factorization of polynomials, special products, etc. Your description of College Algebra is as I thought as this would make the most sense to come after what i just did.
    So Im good I think for Algebra prep for PreCalculus.
    But should I be studying Geometry or Trigonometry to best prepare for the Trigonometry portion of PreCalculus this upcoming Spring?
  7. Dec 16, 2017 #6


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    As long as your understanding and skill at "Intermediate Algebra" is good, you are ready to enroll in and study Trigonometry. Some understanding of Geometry is good, but most of the course on Geometry is not really needed for studying Trigonometry. It would not hurt, but much of it will not be an obstacle if you don't remember it. All you really need is simple understanding of a circle, fairly simple understanding of right triangles and a few other triangles, what are parallel and perpendicular lines; and go to it!

    If you prefer to study Trigonometry on your own before enrolling in it to study, then this can also be good. Just be sure you are comfortable with Intermediate Algebra.
  8. Dec 16, 2017 #7
    Ok great thank you!
    I feel pretty solid about the Intermediate Algebra. Got 100% on my final and ended the class with a 99%. But I know that doesn't necessarily mean someone truly understands the material, so I will be reviewing it all until College Algebra. Thats good to know about the Geometry. I wont spend too much time on it then Ill switch gears to Trigonometry. Really looking forward to these classes.
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