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Was this a poor academic choice?

  1. Jan 2, 2014 #1
    Hey everyone, it's been a while since I posted on here, but I'm having some conflicting thoughts about my upcoming semester. I am hoping to get some outside opinions to make sure I'm not just beating myself up for nothing.

    So, here is the situation. I graduated high school in 2010, I was the standard sit in the back of the class and sleep/not pay attention person, barely graduated on time, bottom 25% of my class, because at that point I had no intentions of going to college or anything. So needless to say, I came out of HS very unprepared mentally to start a college career... The situation is made worse, considering that now it is 2014, and I'm about to start my second semester, I've had time to forget what little I knew.

    Now, the concern I have is in the progression of math classes I'm taking, since I need to take Calc I, II, III and differential equations before I transfer from the community college I'm at to a university my goal was to get to the calc as soon as possible. After taking the math entry test at orientation, I tested into

    MTH-110 Intermediate Algebra
    This course is an extension of basic algebra and includes factoring, rational expressions, linear equations, quadratic equations, functions, graphs, radicals, complex numbers, and applications.

    Which I took in the fall... From there, I had to options. Take College Algebra, followed by Trig, followed by Calc I (and so on)

    Or, Take a class just called Pre Calculus which my MTH-110 was the pre req for.

    MTH-138 Pre-Calculus Mathematics
    This course is designed to prepare students for calculus. Topics include polynomial, rational, radical, exponential, logarithmic and trigonometric functions; analytic trigonometry; vectors; sequences and series; the Binomial Theorem; and limits.

    Prerequisite: Grade of �B� or better in MTH 110 or equivalent or satisfactory score on the Mathematics Placement Assessment.

    So my main concern is this, is jumping trig and going straight to Pre Calc going to harm me in the long run? (The pre calc class leads straight into calc I).

    At first I thought it was no big deal, I took the prerequisite class, got an A, no big deal... But now, due to an earlier failed attempt to start college, which resulted in me withdrawing around midterm because I just couldn't afford it, has put me on Financial Aid probation this semester. Which means if I drop or fail any classes I will not be able to get financial aid in the future.

    Although now that I have filed my appeal to be given this semester of FA, even changing the class would have the same outcome, so regardless it looks like I'm headed to pre calc... I have a week until classes start, is there anything I should try to learn in that time to make sure I'm ready?

    Thanks for any insight/advice!

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2014 #2


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    You've signed up for the fast path rather than the slow path. So long as you're serious you'll be fine. To prepare you should understand and be able to use all the algebra you already know, plus it wouldn't hurt to make a quick first pass through what's on the syllabus for pre-calc.

    For your future sanity it is critical that you be very, very comfortable with algebra. You need to be able to use it in a variety of situations, not just those that look similar to those you've practiced. You need to be able to reason logically about problems and translate that to mathematics, which at this stage means algebra.
  4. Jan 3, 2014 #3
    Thank a lot! Fast track is my preferred track... Once they release the syllabi I'll start running through the lessons to get a head start, and I'll go back through my algebra notebook to refresh on that!

    Again, thanks for the advice!
  5. Jan 3, 2014 #4
    I recall doubling up on precalculus and college algebra my final year of high school. If you can afford it, I would HIGHLY suggest taking both together. There will be some overlap between the two but there are essential topics covered in both and the overlap helps things really sink in. I was in a similar situation but decided to get serious during my senior year of HS and taking these two classes together was the ultimate preparation for calculus.
  6. Jan 3, 2014 #5
    I recommend Math Tutor DVD videos for precalc all the way into diff eqns. I'm still in high school(So i dont know if youll regard my opinion highly at all haha) but i did learn alot of calc 1,2 and part of three, as well as matrix algebra and ODE's, all in gr 9, with Math Tutor DVD.

  7. Jan 3, 2014 #6


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    You'll be fine in pre-calculus, it's often just college algebra + trig + maybe some limits you'll see again anyway.
  8. Jan 4, 2014 #7
    I checked with Student Services about taking both, but due to my financial aid probation if I add another class that I hadn't planned it will disqualify me from receiving FA.

    Hopefully I can keep up!

    I will check into those when I'm not on my phone.

    Thanks for everyone's insights!

    However, as I read about various fields within physics and mathematics it leaves me wondering... does someone like me, with a non genius IQ have the possibility of excelling in these fields?
  9. Jan 4, 2014 #8
    In that case, I would have to agree with others. Take pre calc.
  10. Jan 4, 2014 #9
    Okay great!
  11. Jan 4, 2014 #10


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    Pre-calc would be fine. There are some topics that would be covered in the College Algebra and Trigonometry courses individually that won't be covered in pre-calc, but those are typically the topics that are less crucial for introductory calculus anyway. The point of a pre-calc class is to prepare you for calculus.

    As others have already mentioned, a solid understanding of algebraic manipulation is crucial in calculus. Algebra doesn't go away. If anything, it gets more complex. The basic methods of things like differentiating and integrating are really little more than a whole bunch of algebraic manipulation. A lot of people get hung up in calculus classes, and not always because the calculus confuses them. It's often because their algebra skills aren't up to par.

    As far as trigonometry goes, make sure you understand the more basic trig identities. Things like the Pythagorean Identities, sum and difference formulas, and double angle formulas can play a big part in introductory calculus, depending on the professor. These are all things that should be covered in a pre-calc class though.
  12. Jan 4, 2014 #11
    Personally, I took a precalc-trig combo class, and I think because of that my trig is weak. If you're able to skip trig and if you think that's best, I'd suggest studying it on your own and learning the identities, the formulas and understanding the unit circle.
  13. Jan 4, 2014 #12


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    It's precisely because of that that I would generally recommend taking separate college algebra and trigonometry classes. The deeper understanding of both topics is very beneficial. If there is a compelling reason to take a precalc class instead of the two classes individually though, it can still work. The main shortcoming will come via a somewhat insufficient understanding of trig. That can be compensated for with self study though.
  14. Jan 6, 2014 #13

    I have been looking online for a book or two to self study college algebra and trig while taking the pre calc class, does anyone have preferences as to which book to use?


    I found that one, it is pretty affordable, and covers both algebra and trig... but, if it's no good, let me know!

  15. Jan 6, 2014 #14


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    Absolutely. I am an example of someone with a non-genius IQ who has done quite well in Engineering. Most engineers are bright and hard working. Being smart but lazy means you usually don't complete your degree.
  16. Jan 7, 2014 #15


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    IQ is meaningless in this context.

    Check out REAs problem solver for algebra/trig, it's cheap and I liked it for the worked examples.
  17. Jan 12, 2014 #16
    Alright so I'm back with a new question regarding my academic future...

    As of right now my plan is to finish (or not finish) at the community college I'm at now, then transfer to either Missouri State University, or Missouri S&T (for those of you in the US, is this school as good as everyone around Missouri says it is) I plan to double major in physics and mathematics (Assuming I still like math once I get some more upper level classes done).

    I plan to go to grad school, but when I look at student design teams on Missouri S&T's website, I just can't help but be interested in aerospace engineering... My question, with a double major in physics and math, would I be able to do graduate work in aerospace engineering if I decided that's where I wanted to go after undergrade? Or is it one of those things where aerospace engineering undergrad is needed to be accepted into the graduate program?

    Also, if I decide to go to S&T.... do you think I would be able to participate in the design teams, being a non engineering major?

    Thanks again for any info.
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