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Should I take College Algebra and then Trig or just skip it and take Precalc?

  1. Jan 5, 2006 #1
    So I've been annoyed with my college recently because of their grading system on this accuplacer tests. Along with the fact that the staff are annoying and ugh. long story short I need to get into higher math classes as quick as possible.

    I'm gifted at math and figure that I'll be able to keep my 4.0 for a while.
    I don't have much time to mess around and slack, I'm one of those diehard that will get something done until it's done.

    I don't understand why I can't take college algebra with trig at the same time, so I looked at my other option which is a precalc course. I'm sure it combines all of the concepts of college algebra and plane trigonometry.

    I'm asking some of you if you think I should take the precalc course. The whole problem is, if I take Coll. Alg. I have to wait another semester to get into Trig.. I don't feel like playing games with time. I don't have time to play around. If I take precalc, boom, i get right into calc a lot quicker.

    Here's the course descriptions, see if you can help me out here:

    College Algebra
    IAI: None 1.1
    College Algebra includes a review of intermediate
    algebra, though it covers the overlapping
    material more quickly and at a
    deeper level. The course develops the concept
    of a function and its graph, inverse
    functions, exponential functions and their
    applications, and systems of linear equations
    and the matrix methods useful in
    solving those systems. The course will also
    cover the theory of equations. Optional
    topics to be covered if time permits are
    sequences and series, the binomial theorem
    and mathematical induction.
    Prerequisite: MTH 098 or equivalent
    Geometry and Intermediate Algebra both
    with a grade of “C” or higher.
    Credit: 3 semester hours
    Lecture: 3 Lab: 0

    Plane Trigonometry
    IAI: MTM 901 1.1
    Plane Trigonometry is a study of measures
    of angles, trigonometric functions of acute
    and general angles, inverse functions,
    graphs, fundamental identities, trigonometric
    formulas and equations, applications,
    vectors, complex numbers, and topics
    in analytic geometry.
    Prerequisite: MTH 120 or equivalent with
    a grade of “C” or higher.
    Credit: 3 semester hours
    Lecture: 3 Lab: 0

    Precalculus Mathematics is intended for
    students preparing for MTH 135 and covers
    the material of MTH 120 and MTH 125
    at a more rapid pace than those individual
    courses. Among the topics covered in this
    course are: functions and graphs, including
    linear, polynomial, rational, exponential,
    and logarithmic functions; complex numbers
    and theory of equations; trigonometric
    functions, their basic properties and
    graphs; identities; inverse trigonometric
    functions; trigonometric equations; Law of
    Sines, Law of Cosines; conics, parametric
    equations, and polar coordinates. Optional
    topics will be covered as time permits, e.g.
    DeMoivre’s theorem and Nth roots,
    sequences, mathematical induction, and
    the bionomial theorem. Students may not
    earn more than six credits for any combination
    of MTH 120, 125, and 132.
    Prerequisite: MTH 098 or equivalent
    Geometry and Intermediate Algebra both
    with a grade of “C” or higher.
    Credit: 5 semester
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 5, 2006 #2
    What kinds of math have you taken before? I followed a similiar track as you and skipped right into pre-calc. Precalculus wasn't too bad and I found it to be quite easy, but before taking pre-calculus, I did some self-studying-- because the teacher is most likely not going to take the time to teach you how to factor, etc.

    You may also need to go to a department head and convince them that you do not need to take college algebra and trig. In my case, the most difficult part of skipping these classes was getting the damn waiver signed that allowed me to take precalc. Meet the department head with enthusiasm (without looking conceited), and a hard-working attitude.
  4. Jan 6, 2006 #3
    That's an important point. Most Precalc courses are designed as a skill review, whereas college algebra is usually set to be a full instruction course in a narrower topic set. You'll cover the core concepts, but you won't spend too much time with them, and the precalc will move a lot faster.

    As someone who has taken a remedial Alg. II course, College Algebra, and Precalc, I would reccomend that you take both the Trig and College Algebra courses. If I had jumped straight into Precalc, I would have been hard pressed to come out with anything higher than a B. Now, I must admit my experience is quite biased, as my Alg. II and College Algebra courses were from a teaching oriented community college, and my Precalc was at a research I university, and was taught by a grad student who was obviously bored, intimidated, and overworked. However, the depth of coverage and the sheer amount of mastery and confidence I gained form the first two were well worth it.

    Also, I was actually raised as an unschooler/homeschooler since 1st grade. My independant studies were relatively well rounded, but I always lacked a rigorous mathematics background, which is why I jumped into the remedial Algebra II course, and the college algebra. I had never taken any of those before, so my experience is quite different from the average highschooler's. Obviously, it won't be as useful if you spent a year on it in highschool.

    As long as you are not too pressed for time, I would reccomend what I just did. If you feel you can handle it, or if you've taken it all before, go for it.
  5. Jan 6, 2006 #4
    I would say that it just depends how comfortable you are with Algebra and trig at your current level of education. My school offers pre-cal and I actually took it before I took College Algebra/Trig(which I am taking right now as a Dual Credit course since there are no other options). I took the pre-cal after what I felt was a quite rigorous Algebra II course and did just fine(never made below a 97). Personally(and of course this may vary from institution to institution), I belive I would have done just fine no matter which course I had taken first. However, I was VERY comfortable with Algebra and I did a bit of self study on Trig, so it really wasn't that big of a deal. If you are willing to work hard and maybe do a bit of self study if you don't understand something, you should do just fine skipping College Algebra/Trig.
  6. Jan 6, 2006 #5
    I can't imagine what you would learn in college algebra that would prevent you from doing well in trig if you didn't have it. I think I took them at the same time and I'm a long long LONG way from being mathematically gifted. If I didn't have a problem with it, I doubt most people would. Talk to your advisor, they should be able to tell you who you have to talk to in order to get a waiver to take them both.

    I never took a precalc class, but I've heard they are not all that beneficial.

    I've now taken calc 1-3 and other then the last 25% of calc 3, I never ran into anything that someone of average intelligence couldn't comprehend if they put the work into it. Fortunately, as an engineering major, I don't have to go any further in math because I think calc 3 was the limit of my mathematical ability :smile:.
  7. Jan 6, 2006 #6
    kdinser. Engineering major and you have to take only calc 1-3? Wow! Here, you have to take Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, and Statistics, and maybe another math class or two depending on the specific engineering you are majoring in.


    Bio-Hazard. As for taking College Algebra, take it if you are going to be doing a lot of math, because I don't think it would hurt to have extra math practice, and it will only be one extra class.
  8. Jan 8, 2006 #7
    I do have to take diff EQ and linear alg, but that stuff makes a lot more sense to me then some of the stuff we covered in the last part of calc 3. I do much better when it comes to applying math then I do at learning it:smile:.
    Quick edit:
    At my school, calc II is the prereq for both linerar algebra and diff EQ, so I consider calc 3 the most "advanced" math class I'm required to take.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2006
  9. Jan 9, 2006 #8
    I am an EE major and need to take calc 1, 2, 3, DE, prob/stats, linear alg. and adv. eng. math (complex analysis for engis).

    Bio-hazard, if you've already taken formal courses on college algebra and trig and feel comfortable with the concepts, then I would recommend pre-calc. However, if you've never taken the classes before, or you have but still feel shaky with the concepts, then I would advise you to spend the extra semester taking the classes. Even if you THINK you feel comfortable with the concepts, the more second nature you become with this stuff, the better, so it might not be a bad idea to spend the extra semester to refresh your memory, and maybe fill in some gaps.

    I personally went the college alg./trig route when I got to college, before taking calc 1, and feel it was a good move.
  10. Jan 9, 2006 #9


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    I skipped right into Calculus and I was fine, so I assume Pre-Calculus should be fine.
  11. Jan 10, 2006 #10
    I would say go straight into Precalculus... Half of precalc is college algebra review in the first place!
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