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EKT

Is pre-calculus "enough" for a typical college-prep path?

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We are homeschooling with the goal of college readiness, but we are not a particularly STEM-y family. (Definitely more about the humanities/arts in our house!) That said, I don't want to put my kids at a disadvantage at all, in terms of what college admissions expect nowadays. We have used Math U See all along and have been very happy with it. My oldest is about to enter seventh grade. She is halfway through Zeta, and is on track to begin pre-algebra by Halloween or Thanksgiving. But, looking ahead, I just realized that if she continues on her current path (assuming she progresses steadily), she will complete calculus by the end of 12th grade. On the one hand, I think that's great, but on the other hand, I'm thinking, is calculus in 12th grade necessary for a non-STEM oriented student? (Do colleges nowadays expect calculus for non-STEM students?) Part of me is thinking it might be smarter to slow things down, really take our time finishing Zeta, and plan to start pre-algebra in 8th grade instead. (This would position her to finish 12th grade with pre-calc instead of calculus). This plan would allow us to just work slowly and deeply and incorporate other sorts of math, like personal finance--I'm thinking of doing something like Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Personal Finance (you know, math that a person actually needs to know, lol). Also of note: my daughter is "young" for seventh grade. (She has a June birthday, so most of her friends in school--who are only a month or two younger--are actually just going into 6th grade this year. She is a great student and has never struggled with math, but I'm wondering if she'll find high school math easier if she's a year older when she gets to it.) Thoughts?

Pros: I think I would feel less rushed if we slowed things down, and it would give us room to do other sorts of math I think are important. 

Cons: I'm worried about losing momentum and/or inadvertently putting my child at a disadvantage as far as college/the big picture goes. 

Just looking for advice or insight from those further along the path. Did your student go all the way to calculus? Was it "necessary"? Would love to hear others' experience. Thanks!

 

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My DD23 went into college with a Meteorology major.  Not only did she not take calc....she never even took precalc.

And then after a year and a half or so of school she switched from meteorology to GIS.....and still never took pre calc.  Graduated in 4 years, working in a job in her degree field, making a living wage.

 

So...no...neither pre calc nor calc is "necessary" in high school, IMO

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One of mine did pre-Calc, and the other did algebra two. Both have been fine in college. We used MUS also, and use their stewardship course, which we really liked.   Personal finance type classes really aren’t a “math” credit for high school, they are more of an elective. But I’m like you in thinking that it’s important. I say go at your child’s pace. If you get to Calc or pre-Calc wonderful! If you only get to algebra two, it can still work out. Get as far as your student is willing and able to go.

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10 hours ago, happysmileylady said:

My DD23 went into college with a Meteorology major.  Not only did she not take calc....she never even took precalc.

And then after a year and a half or so of school she switched from meteorology to GIS.....and still never took pre calc.  Graduated in 4 years, working in a job in her degree field, making a living wage.

 

So...no...neither pre calc nor calc is "necessary" in high school, IMO

This is very encouraging to hear, thank you for sharing!

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8 hours ago, MerryAtHope said:

One of mine did pre-Calc, and the other did algebra two. Both have been fine in college. We used MUS also, and use their stewardship course, which we really liked.   Personal finance type classes really aren’t a “math” credit for high school, they are more of an elective. But I’m like you in thinking that it’s important. I say go at your child’s pace. If you get to Calc or pre-Calc wonderful! If you only get to algebra two, it can still work out. Get as far as your student is willing and able to go.

Thank you for so much sharing; it's super encouraging to hear from someone who used MUS!

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8 minutes ago, EKT said:

This is very encouraging to hear, thank you for sharing!

She did take probability and statistics because she did take Algebra 1 in 8th.  There was some particular quirk about how the school treated the credit when Algebra 1 was taken in 8th, so she needed to fulfill a math credit.

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6 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

She did take probability and statistics because she did take Algebra 1 in 8th.  There was some particular quirk about how the school treated the credit when Algebra 1 was taken in 8th, so she needed to fulfill a math credit.

Ah! Good to know. Thank you!

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At my dd's school, she needed a certain math score on her SAT (540), and for her, that was not accomplishable until we hit certain chapters in MUS PreCal.  Although it wasn't like they would have rejected her, she would have to have taken remedial courses to be eligible for the one math the university required, which was Statistics or College Algebra, depending on (Humanities or Nursing) major.

So actually, if you can hit MUS PreCal before the SATs, that's not a bad thing.  My dd took her SATs senior year to have the most math, and even then I had to skip ahead to cover some SAT topics that were further along in the book.  (She took MUS PreCal senior year.)  HTH

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I wouldn't slow down just for the sake of slowing down.  I would go at a pace that is comfortable for your student and know that you can slow down if that is required.

That said, if you're hoping for a good math SAT/ACT score, the earlier the student has had Algebra 2 and been able to consolidate those skills through precalculus, the better.  If your student is doing precalculus in 12th grade, she won't get that opportunity.

 

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42 minutes ago, perkybunch said:

At my dd's school, she needed a certain math score on her SAT (540), and for her, that was not accomplishable until we hit certain chapters in MUS PreCal.  Although it wasn't like they would have rejected her, she would have to have taken remedial courses to be eligible for the one math the university required, which was Statistics or College Algebra, depending on (Humanities or Nursing) major.

So actually, if you can hit MUS PreCal before the SATs, that's not a bad thing.  My dd took her SATs senior year to have the most math, and even then I had to skip ahead to cover some SAT topics that were further along in the book.  (She took MUS PreCal senior year.)  HTH

THIS IS SO HELPFUL! I had not thought about that, and didn't know how MUS lined up with standardized testing, so this is so good to know! Thank you!

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26 minutes ago, EKS said:

I wouldn't slow down just for the sake of slowing down.  I would go at a pace that is comfortable for your student and know that you can slow down if that is required.

That said, if you're hoping for a good math SAT/ACT score, the earlier the student has had Algebra 2 and been able to consolidate those skills through precalculus, the better.  If your student is doing precalculus in 12th grade, she won't get that opportunity.

 

Thank you so much for pointing this out. Super appreciated!

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My oldest D'S did both Calc A and B in 12th, but he is very STEM oriented. My next DS will complete pre-calc in 12th. He started it in 11th but is slow at math so by the time he's done it will have taken him 1.5 years to finish it. He did have enough trig by then to do well on the math portion of the SAT at the end of junior year. I anticipate the rest of my kids will be like 2nd DS as math is not their favorite subject, although they do well at it. They just are not willing to spend more than an hour a day on it like oldest DS was, and I'm fine with that. He was an anomaly 😊

I take a lot of comfort from what @regentrude said once on here somewhere that it was a lot more important to make sure Algebra skills were solid than to get through calculus in high school. 

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1 hour ago, Momto6inIN said:

My oldest D'S did both Calc A and B in 12th, but he is very STEM oriented. My next DS will complete pre-calc in 12th. He started it in 11th but is slow at math so by the time he's done it will have taken him 1.5 years to finish it. He did have enough trig by then to do well on the math portion of the SAT at the end of junior year. I anticipate the rest of my kids will be like 2nd DS as math is not their favorite subject, although they do well at it. They just are not willing to spend more than an hour a day on it like oldest DS was, and I'm fine with that. He was an anomaly 😊

I take a lot of comfort from what @regentrude said once on here somewhere that it was a lot more important to make sure Algebra skills were solid than to get through calculus in high school. 

Thank you for sharing this!!!

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I don't think Calc is necessary in high school, but I would try to get through PreCalc.

At the schools I've looked at, Calc is necessary in college for pretty much any major that isn't Humanities, Arts, and maybe some Social Sciences.  For the first two, you might be able to get away with some random soft-shoe Math gen-ed; for the latter you'd probably need Stats.  One of my dds is doing Anthropology/Linguistics/Philosophy; she took through PreCalc in high school and then only had to take Stats for her major(s).

My other dd is going to be a Business major - all Business majors at most schools have to take Calc.  She only got through PreCalc at the CC (she dual-enrolled for high school) and they were still going to make her take a placement test.  She is taking Calc this summer at another 4-year that would accept her PreCalc as a pre-req.  Economics, a social science, also requires Calculus in college at the schools I've looked at.  Then she'll be done with math classes.

Both my nephews have run into trouble with this and bad Advisors.  They both started as "Undecided" and were told not to worry about anything except a generic GenEd math.  Then one decided he wanted to do Environmental Science.  He's not generally STEM-y, but oh dear, this major does require Calc.  He got through PreCalc in high school but now he's a rising Junior and he still hasn't taken Calc - which is required for him to graduate with his major, which he otherwise loves.

His brother is just entering as a freshman - Undecided - and was told a programming class would be fine for the Math GenEd.  So, I asked him - are you planning any kind of Humanities or Art degree?  Well, probably not - he really isn't an Art/Humanities kid.  He also thinks very probably not STEM (so don't bother with harder Science/Engineering Calc), but maybe Business or Econ.  So I told him, sign up for Business Calc NOW, after confirming both majors require Business Calc at his school, while you still remember math from high school.  You don't want to have to take Calc cold after a year or more off of math.  And if for some reason like his brother he takes a hard right turn to some kind of major that does require the harder Calc, he'll still be better off than if he took time off of math.  If he somehow decides on Humanities after all, having taken a bit more math doesn't hurt.  This keeps the doors open.  Otherwise he could end up in the pickle his brother is in.

And if you enter with less than PreCalc, you are likely looking at a semester or two of remedial math, depending on the school.  I know some schools consider College Algebra/PreCalc to be a college-level class, but our state flagship (not some selective private) does not, so if you do need a degree that requires Calc in college, best to be prepared.

If you're 100% sure a kid is going to do Humanities/Art, just AlgII in high school could be okay.

For a STEM kid, I would try to get through Calc in high school, but that wasn't your question.  My one STEM kid is the one who did take Calc AB.

Edited by Matryoshka
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1 hour ago, Matryoshka said:

I don't think Calc is necessary in high school, but I would try to get through PreCalc.

At the schools I've looked at, Calc is necessary in college for pretty much any major that isn't Humanities, Arts, and maybe some Social Sciences.  For the first two, you might be able to get away with some random soft-shoe Math gen-ed; for the latter you'd probably need Stats.  One of my dds is doing Anthropology/Linguistics/Philosophy; she took through PreCalc in high school and then only had to take Stats for her major(s).

My other dd is going to be a Business major - all Business majors at most schools have to take Calc.  She only got through PreCalc at the CC (she dual-enrolled for high school) and they were still going to make her take a placement test.  She is taking Calc this summer at another 4-year that would accept her PreCalc as a pre-req.  Economics, a social science, also requires Calculus in college at the schools I've looked at.  Then she'll be done with math classes.

Both my nephews have run into trouble with this and bad Advisors.  They both started as "Undecided" and were told not to worry about anything except a generic GenEd math.  Then one decided he wanted to do Environmental Science.  He's not generally STEM-y, but oh dear, this major does require Calc.  He got through PreCalc in high school but now he's a rising Junior and he still hasn't taken Calc - which is required for him to graduate with his major, which he otherwise loves.

His brother is just entering as a freshman - Undecided - and was told a programming class would be fine for the Math GenEd.  So, I asked him - are you planning any kind of Humanities or Art degree?  Well, probably not - he really isn't an Art/Humanities kid.  He also thinks very probably not STEM (so don't bother with harder Science/Engineering Calc), but maybe Business or Econ.  So I told him, sign up for Business Calc NOW, after confirming both majors require Business Calc at his school, while you still remember math from high school.  You don't want to have to take Calc cold after a year or more off of math.  And if for some reason like his brother he takes a hard right turn to some kind of major that does require the harder Calc, he'll still be better off than if he took time off of math.  If he somehow decides on Humanities after all, having taken a bit more math doesn't hurt.  This keeps the doors open.  Otherwise he could end up in the pickle his brother is in.

And if you enter with less than PreCalc, you are likely looking at a semester or two of remedial math, depending on the school.  I know some schools consider College Algebra/PreCalc to be a college-level class, but our state flagship (not some selective private) does not, so if you do need a degree that requires Calc in college, best to be prepared.

If you're 100% sure a kid is going to do Humanities/Art, just AlgII in high school could be okay.

For a STEM kid, I would try to get through Calc in high school, but that wasn't your question.  My one STEM kid is the one who did take Calc AB.

Thank you for all this information and detail! Much appreciated!!

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Mine is going into humanities and/ or English. She won't be doing precalc, but just trig her senior year. She won't need calculus for her major. 

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6 hours ago, EKT said:

THIS IS SO HELPFUL! I had not thought about that, and didn't know how MUS lined up with standardized testing, so this is so good to know! Thank you!

 

Both of my kids had done MUS Algebra 2 their junior years and took the ACT after that (actually my oldest had a semester off of math after that before he took the ACT--he doesn't care for math!) Both had a top 20% ACT score--more than enough to avoid remedial math in college. I think you'd have to be through Pre-calc to have a shot at one of the top math scores though. Oldest just took Stats in college and that was enough to fulfill his math requirement (Media Studies major, which could be done with a BS or a BA--he's going with a BA to avoid more math/science!) Youngest did Pre-calc her senior year. She started as Pre-nursing and would have needed Stats for that major. She switched to Early Childhood and will need College Algebra, Stats, and two teaching related math courses. College Algebra is not considered remedial here--maybe it goes back to Regentrude's comment and they want to ensure that future teachers to have a solid understanding of Algebra? Not sure. 

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9 hours ago, EKS said:

I wouldn't slow down just for the sake of slowing down.  I would go at a pace that is comfortable for your student and know that you can slow down if that is required.

 

This. Although DD15 is a solid math student, it really helped her to repeat prealgebra and algebra with a more challenging program after her first go-through. I was glad she had the time to do so in 8th/9th grade. It's good to have some flexibility built in in case future math levels need more time.

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2 hours ago, Bocky said:

 It's good to have some flexibility built in in case future math levels need more time.

This is a great point. We've gone through all the levels so far very smoothly and with no problems, but it's good to remember that might not always be the case. Thanks!

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You may want to consider what is considered normal in your area, and what math the other students will be bringing to college. In my area, to be competitive, you need a minimum of Pre-Calc, but because schools run on trimesters and quarters, many will have AP Stats and/or AP Calc AB/ BC. The top STEM students will have one year beyond AP Calc BC, and some AP Computer Science.

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My son switched his major to avoid calc+. He's a tech kid that doesn't care for math. He took up through trig as high school and college algebra and will take stats as his second college level math. 

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If your daughter is doing well in math, I would continue on your current path. Seventh grade is early to decide on a future college major, and your daughter might surprise you. I majored in Chemistry in college much to the surprise of my parents. My daughter, with two parents with PhDs in Chemistry, majored in Latin and minored in Geology. My recommendation is to try to keep doors open for your child/ren.

Regards,

Kareni

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