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  1. Dec 10, 2008 #1
    I am 17 years old, and I have dropped out of school when I was 15 to recieve my GED.
    I then got my GED because I had to help around the house and get a job.

    We've gotten out of this hole now, and I am looking to get started on Math/Physics.
    I currently don't have a vehicle to a community college, but I am willing to work hard with books.
    I spent about 5 days in high school (Before I had to leave), and I wouldn't consider myself smart or stupid.
    But, I do believe hard work will help me succeed in getting things done.
    I'm willing to spend in a excess of 200$ on amazon.com on some books to get.
    (I'm willing to take full-time to study)
    Take note, I don't remember much, and I was wondering were I can get started again?
    What would you suggest to get caught back up on everything?
    And what books would you suggest? I was told to get some of the "Dummies" books, but I wasen't sure if those were any good or not.

    I truely appreciate any help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2008 #2
    I would think it would be important for you to assess your current knowledge base in the core curriculum. I'm not sure if there are any services you could use to do this...

    What do you feel are your strengths/ weaknesses?
  4. Dec 10, 2008 #3
    Well, I feel I have a weakness in Math, and I've never taken physics, though I like the idea of physics, and what I could learn from it.

    I just don't know were to start again.
  5. Dec 10, 2008 #4
    I'm hoping that someone more qualified will interject.

    I must say that your writing skills seem to be moer than acceptable.

    Don't colleges and community colleges offer placement tests to test for deficiencies? Perhaps you could take one to see where you are lacking. Don't have to actually register.
  6. Dec 10, 2008 #5
    Well, I could do that.
    Thats if my school allowed me to. (Not totally sure).

    I have a hard time getting to the school though, I have no vehicle.
    And its quite the bit out of the way, but I can try.
    Any other suggestions until then?

    I appreciate the help you are giving me.

    Also take note that I do have 200$ to spend on books from Amazon.com.
    So I should benefit from that. (Hopefully)

    Lets just say I wanted to review pretty much everything that needed to be reviewed for being on key with learning Physics?
  7. Dec 10, 2008 #6
    I'd say start with the math. Get yourself up the point where you are ready to learn calculus, you will need mastery of:


    If you are already pretty good in these areas you could get away with just a precalc class but otherwise you may need an individual class for each. You need to assess your level of knowledge so people can direct what you need better.

    I dont think you need to go to college to take the the placements test, go online and find some problems in each subject, do you understand them? can you do them? That will tell you enough I think.
  8. Dec 10, 2008 #7
    Well, I just took a Level 1 test located at

    I didn't know how to do any of those. I don't even remember how.
    I only got 10% correct and I was guessing. :yuck:

    So I guess I need to learn it all again. (Not the basics)
    But I do need to learn Algebra, Fractions, Equations, and all of that such.
    Where can I get started from the beginning?

    Any suggestions on books yet?

    Also, take note I did drop out at the very beginning of High School.
    I know I'm going to have a lot of work ahead of me, but I'm up for it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  9. Dec 10, 2008 #8
    i guess you'd need to start with pre-algebra if fractions are new to you Im sure there are resources out there but at your level actually taking the courses might be helpful since you have so much ground to cover. You could try taking classes as a non-degree student or auditting courses(which is usually cheaper). Auditting might be best because the credits from classes before Calc wouldn't count towards a Math/Physics degree anyways. That way when you apply to a real school as degree student you'll simply be able to take a test to place into Calculus. Most Community Colleges have the low level math you'll need to get going.
  10. Dec 10, 2008 #9
    Well, I won't be able to go to one of those for a bit, as I have no vehicle.
    So as for now I am stuck with books.

    So get a pre-algebra book, a book for algebra, what comes after that? And then after that?
  11. Dec 10, 2008 #10
    If you are up for the work then first order of business should be getting transportation to go to a community college. It is sooooo much easier to learn this stuff when there is someone that already knows it guiding you.
  12. Dec 10, 2008 #11


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    Same as lubuntu, find a book on Pre-Algebra, and you should be able to study it self-paced on your own. Once finished, you could move on to Introductory Algebra/Beginning Algebra and either study on your own or use a tutor for guidance. For books, you do not need to use an online supply company; you can find good used books at most local book sales, such as from a public or college library. They usually hold such used book sales twice each year. MUCH CHEAPER than the online companies, and old books are often just as good as new books.

    As summary and continuation:

    PreAlgebra and Algebra 1 on your own with any old, good book;
    Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, on your own or with tutor or in community college, but in college, you must also use THEIR books;
    Ready for Calculus 1,...
  13. Dec 10, 2008 #12
    Well the gift card I have is for amazon.com (200$)
    And they have quite a large amount of books for used sale, some at even .99 Cents.

    I grew up home schooled, and never did to well in school, because I like to learn at my own pace. Rather then being guided.
    If someone could do me a great favor and head through www.amazon.com and look at some books that you would suggest, I'd greatly appreciate it.
    I'll be getting a vehicle in February to go to a Community College, but I want to be completely ready so school is extremely easy.

    So as for now, its just books, as the community college isn't a option until February.

    I was looking at the following...
    Or if you disagree with those...

    If you feel these books are definitely not worth the time, please try to suggest others.

    Thanks a lot everyone.
  14. Dec 10, 2008 #13
    You had mentioned the "For Dummies" books... while I loathe the title, they would probably suit you. I just took a brief look on Amazon at "Algebra for Dummies", and the first chapter starts with a review of numbers and fractions, so you might not need a pre-algebra book, depending on exactly where your math skills are.

    There is a companion book called "Algebra Workbook for Dummies"... from what I can tell, it has the same structure as "Algebra for Dummies", but with more problems and less explanation. You need to do problems... no one understands math without doing *lots* of problems!

    After that, you probably need some geometry and trigonometry... but I'd recommend not worrying about that right now. Get one or two basic algebra books, and go through them. When you feel like you understand them well, then you can ask for more recommendations.

    Good luck!

    EDIT: Looking at your list, I'd skip the Basic Math unless you get the Algebra book and find that it is too much for you. And as I said, consider the Algebra Workbook too... although I have to admit, I can't see from here how many problems the Algebra book itself has. Problems are key!

    2ND EDIT: While I would encourage self-study, at the same time, at some point you will have to merge into the regular academic world. The sooner you can get used to this, the better.

    And while I agree with lubuntu's post that the dummies books are not necessarily the best, they don't seem that bad and they are fairly cheap. Regular algebra I textbooks are a significant expense! I think these books will serve the OP's purpose well enough.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
  15. Dec 10, 2008 #14
    I don't think the cliff notes or dummies books are they way to go, especially if your interested in and want to pursue math or physics. You have to understand why this stuff works the way it does not just how to mechanically do problems. It will help you in the long run too!

    I really cant recommend a book since it's been so long since I've taken those courses. Have a look at a colleges website and see what kinds of books they use for those courses, might give you a pretty good idea. I think the stuff is simple enough that any decent textbook should be good enough. The quality of the book comes into play more with more advanced and abstract topics.

    But if you got a 1/10 of that test( I got a 10/10 doing it in my head), you need more than an overview of this stuff from those outline books you need a more comprehensive study.
  16. Dec 10, 2008 #15
    lubuntu, Seeing as you seem a bit knowledgeable about all these issues, could you do me a big favor and go through www.amazon.com and find some appropriate books?

    I know its a bit to be asking, but I am subjected to amazon.com. (For now that is)

    And I'd rather order books as it is.

    Appreciate all the help given so far.
  17. Dec 10, 2008 #16
    It is great you have taken an interest in your education.

    With the internet you have many resources available to you. I would suggest getting a few text books. Any decent book should do as you are not learning the material at a sophisticated level so just pick something cheap and reliable. You may not have an instructor to ask questions; however you do have these forums and im sure many will gladly help you with any difficulties you come across. Also since lectures supplement the text well I would suggest viewing online lectures.

    You can start by searching here https://www.physicsforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=151. There are tons of lectures online available to the public many of which include entire courses; if this link didn't help im sure google will. With a combination of these resources and self discipline you could receive an education that rivals nearly any other.
  18. Dec 10, 2008 #17
    I don't have any experience with the books you are considering so I can't say whether they are right for you, but I have tried other "for dummies" books and in my experience they only give you a superficial understanding of the subject matter (I know others who swear by them, so your experience may vary, or perhaps the quality of the books aren't consistent). Also I think it's fairly ambitious to attempt a "review of calculus" if you don't have a proper grasp of much high school mathematics. When you get to calculus (definitely not until you can easily score full marks on the test in your link) I would recommend getting an actual calculus textbook, not just a review book.

    Anyway if you have had minimal exposure to many of the topics then I recommend "Basic Mathematics" by Serge Lang (the only decent book I know of at this level). It's a bit expensive ($50 at Amazon), but goes over most high school mathematics in a fairly rigorous manner that prepares you better for later courses (it even contains sections on logic and proofs). Some people find it a bit harder than the standard high school textbooks, but in my opinion this is just because it tries to teach you to truly understand the concepts, not just use them in a small set of problems, as seem to be the goal of the standard books. It fails to address solid geometry at all, and while I consider this to be a small omission, it means that you might need to get another source for that material. It may be too much for you, I don't know, but if you can get through this book with a good understanding, then you will certainly be ready for a calculus course.
  19. Dec 10, 2008 #18
    Hi Tenenbaum,

    First and foremost I want to say congratulations on getting yourself back on your feet and not stopping there. You have an unlimited amount of potential and just need to apply yourself. Do not be discouraged if you think you are very far behind. I graduated high school with people who completed all four years and still couldn't do basic math.

    I think taking a class would be the best way to go. I know you can't get to the campus easily, but many times colleges have community extension/outreach programs that are held in various locations throughout the community, at high schools for example. They don't count for college credit but would be better than not taking a class at all. You will learn from someone who has a higher level of understanding of the material, and can clarify any concepts that aren't making sense. Having regular tests and someone to answer to is a great way to stay motivated. You could try finding an occupational/vocational center nearby that offers some sort of math class. (Maybe even throw in an english class as a refresher.)There are also MANY community colleges that offer online classes. My community college has a full blown general AA degree program that is 100% online. You can always check out the websites of the community colleges in your state and register for the one that has an online math class. Although I wouldn't normally recommend an online math class, I truly believe having a structured class with a professor would benefit you much more.

    As for books, I agree with lubuntu. At your current level, you will get good use out of most any book. The "Dummies guide..." books are okay, but you may find them really useful and interesting. I say go for it. If anything, the book will probably have some neat visuals. You have a 200 dollar gift card so buy one of those and buy a used algebra textbook. Try getting one that is a year or two old but has great reviews. Most times the "latest version" textbooks vary slightly from year to year. You may want to save some of the giftcard for when you take your first math class at a college. You could easily be faced with having to spend 100 bucks for your math book.

    Good luck on your journey!
  20. Dec 10, 2008 #19

    How does stuff like that look to you?
    If you don't feel it is adequate, maybe re-direct me else where?

    The books won't be here for a few days, and I still have to look, but I am eager to start.
    And someone said the best way is a visual learning experience, or with a guide.

    If that stuff does not look like its up to par, do you have any other suggestions?
    I went to the links provided, and thats about all I could find, I'll search around a bit more.

  21. Dec 10, 2008 #20
    There's a lot of tutorials on Youtube that teach basic math. This guy's channel seems pretty good:

    I think if you started at his basic lessons and watch though, you could get a good understanding.
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