College Algebra or Pre-CalculusI'm a sophomore in High School right now taking Algebra 2. Next year, I have a choice between taking College Algebra or Pre-Calculus? Right now, I'm doing so-so in...

College Algebra or Pre-Calculus

I'm a sophomore in High School right now taking Algebra 2. Next year, I have a choice between taking College Algebra or Pre-Calculus? Right now, I'm doing so-so in my current math class. Should I take College Algebra to review another year before taking Pre-cal or should I just go straight to Pre-calculus? 

Asked on by caleber96

13 Answers

wannam's profile pic

wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

It really depends on your projected curriculum path.  If you need to take calculus for your college or career goals, you might want to go ahead and knock it out.  If you need to take a specific number of maths but not necessarily a specific level, you might want to take things a little slower.  Consider that your other courses are likely to increase in difficulty as well.  Are you so-so in your current class because of a lack of effort or because the subject is genuinely difficult for you?  Think about how much time you are willing to put into the class and how confident you are in the subject matter.  There may be other factors effecting your decision as well.  I know I personally chose to take College Algebra because the Pre-Cal teacher didn't use a teaching style I learned well with.  Talk it over with you parents or your guidance counselor and see what your best option is.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The math is somewhat different in pre-calculus. In addition to algebra, it includes a lot of trigonometry.  Believe it or not, I don’t think I really understood algebra until I took calculus.  So don’t discount pre-calc.  It really depends on your goals though.  Do not take a course that seems to easy.  Take a look at why you are only so-so successful now.  It might be the teaching method and not you.  Having a different teacher or method can help.  I suggest you take a look at the text and syllabus for each course if possible.

lfryerda's profile pic

lfryerda | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Pre-calculus is necessary if you are planning to take any additional mathematics that focus on the calculus stream, but college algebra is often the last stop in any mathematics courses.  If your goals include any mathematics post-secondary, the pre-calc course will likely be more useful to you.  

It is surprising the number of post-secondary institutions that require even a limited form of calculus for programs that you would not expect to have any math requirements at all, and so pre-calc if you have the mathematical endurance for it, will keep your options open in a better way than college algebra.

nmmoritz's profile pic

nmmoritz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I agree with a few of the above posts.

I know it may be early, however, you may want to consider "what you want to be when you grow up."  Think about your future college major.  If you plan on attempting a major in which not much (or very little) math is required, you could go ahead with the college algebra.

On the flip side, if you plan on majoring in science or engineering, you may want to take the Pre-Calc.

rcmath's profile pic

rcmath | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

It all depend on your goals and work ethic. What are you planning on studying in the future and how much math do you need to accomplish that goal? Also it comes down to how much work are you planning to put in. If you decided to take pre-cal, are you willing to scarify some personal time to review an Algebra concept you forgot? 


mfonda's profile pic

Matthew Fonda | eNotes Employee

Posted on

In my opinion it depends on how confident you feel in your algebra ability. Pre-Calculus is likely to be the more advanced version of College Algerbra, so if you feel confident then I would go with pre-calc. 

Remember that mathematics is always building on previous concepts, so the new material will make a lot more sense if you have a solid understanding of the old material.

Another thing to consider is whether or not you plan on eventually taking Calculus. If so, you might want to do Pre-Calc. That said, both would be useful, so it's really a matter of how confident you feel and how much you want to be challenged.

Hope this helps!

crystaltu001's profile pic

crystaltu001 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

I think you should take Pre-calculus because it gets you prepared for Calculus. But it all depends on what you are good at doing. If you are good at algebra then do college algebra but if you want to learn and try something new do pre calculus.

acompanioninthetardis's profile pic

acompanioninthetardis | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

It depends on what path you're going down. But if you are doing okay in your current class then i suggest, college algebra just to have things more down pact and into your system. so that when you get to precal, you know the basics and it would probably be easier for you.

Wiggin42's profile pic

Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Valedictorian

Posted on

It all really depends on your math ability. See if you can find next year's Pre-Calc teacher and talk to them. In terms of keeping options open for the future years in high school and college; Pre-Calc opens the most amount of doors for you. Speak with your current maths teacher as well to get a better sense of what you should take. 

caleber96's profile pic

caleber96 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Well, (after much hand-wringing), I decided to take Pre-Calculus my Junior Year. It'll be good for me to get a year of Calculus (in my Senior year of High School of course).