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# Do I need to take Trigonometry before taking Pre-calculus?

edited October 2011
I really don't know where to post this, but I figure that since Engineering majors need so much math, you guys might know more about this.

BACKGROUND INFO: I am a first year college student. I used to have a pretty good handle on math until high school Geomtery/Algebra II when I started slacking off. I became kind of scared of math and took AP Statistics/AP Computer Science instead for my junior and senior years, instead of Math Analysis(the course my high school offered before calculus, I think it was like a combo of precalc and trig) or AP Calculus like everyone else.

Anyways I need to get back into math again now that I'm in college. I actually did ok on the math placement test (in my opinion for not having touched math in awhile), and I'm eligible to take Trigonometry and Precalculus. It's imperative that I catch up FAST on my math, so I'm going to have to take math over the 6-week winter session.

SO ESSENTIALLY: Trig is 3 units, and Precalc is 4 units. 7 units is the max that you can take for the 6 week session. Should I take both at the same time? Or should I just take Precalc, and really focus on it? Or is it REALLY necessary to take trig before precalc? It's best if I'm able to take Calculus in the spring. I do have a 4 week break between Fall and Winter, I could try and self-study a little bit of Trig. What should I do?

MATH 150 - Trigonometry

Prerequisite: MATH 71 or 71B or qualifying score on current department placement test AND Math 61 or passing score on current geometry competency test.
Trigonometry functions and inverse trigonometric functions and the graphical representations of these functions; solutions to right and oblique triangles with laws of sines and cosines; vectors; solutions to trigonometric equations; identities; polar coordinates; complex numbers and DeMoivre's Theorem.

MATH 160 - Precalculus Mathematics

Prerequisite: MATH 150, or qualifying score on current department placement test.
Prepares students for the calculus sequence. Real-valued functions, including algebraic, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions. Also includes proofs, inequalities, introductory analytical geometry, series, sequences, and vectors.
edited October 2011
16 replies
Post edited by Renouveau on

## Replies to: Do I need to take Trigonometry before taking Pre-calculus?

• 2877 replies15 threads Senior Member
Pre-Calculus will ASSUME that you know the Trig basics. There will be no Trig introduction in the Pre-Calculus course. You will do some problems and PRESTO...the Cotangent is in your answer.
• 22635 replies127 threads Senior Member
Two-semester precalculus sequences usually include trigonometry. It appears that your school has a one-semester precalc course which expects trig as a prereq.

It's pretty clear from the course descriptions that you can't take both at the same time and that you have to take Trig (or test out of it) before you can take precalc. If you want to get through precalc, I would suggest self-study of trig between now and shortly before the beginning of your break. You could then try to test out of it and into trig for the winter break.

I generally recommend against learning all of this material over a short period of time as math, for most people, takes some time to sink in.
• 40 replies9 threads Junior Member
I'm eligible to take both the Precalculus and the Trigonometry courses. Meaning I got the "qualifying score on current department placement test." So I would be able to sign up for both courses at the same time, or skip trigonometry, and take precalculus if I wanted to.
• 2877 replies15 threads Senior Member
I'm eligible to take both the Precalculus and the Trigonometry courses. Meaning I got the "qualifying score on current department placement test." So I would be able to sign up for both courses at the same time, or skip trigonometry, and take precalculus if I wanted to.

Your qualifying scores do not totally determine your decision. Do YOU FEEL that you are good enough in Trigonometry? You cannot just "skip" Trigonometry. Trig will be all through Calculus I, II & III.
• 22635 replies127 threads Senior Member
Did you take trig somewhere?

If you're going into the sciences, you really need to know it but you could learn it on your own if you are so inclined. There should be some coverage in the precalc course but the precalc course might only review it.

If you did well in AP Computer Science, then you probably have good problem-solving skills which should help in your math courses.

You have a fair amount of time before the winter break. Why not grab a trig book and go through it doing the exercises in the book? Trig does not cover a huge amount of material though the problems can get complex.
• 40 replies9 threads Junior Member
Hm I see. What do you think about self-studying some trigonometry during my 4 week break, and then taking Trig and Precalc at the same time during my winter session? How much trig is needed to get through precalc?

@BCEagle91 Nope I am a Business Admin major. I do have interest in computer science, but more in the client-side development. No I have not taken a trig course before. And Yep that's what I'm thinking. If I can study enough trig to get myself through precalc, while actually taking trig over the winter to really get a solid foundation in it that might be good. I'm just worried like... how deep into trig does precalc cover? I mean if I study say chapter 1-5 out of 10 chapters in Trigonemetry is Chapter 2 in Precalc going to be touching on concepts of Chapter 9 of Trig?
• 202 replies1 threads Junior Member
No, you don't.

Pre-calc is basically algebra 2 with trigonometry. Looking at my pre-calc textbook I don't see trig covered until chapters 6, 7, and 8. Furthermore, looking at my trig book, I don't see anything else covered in here that isn't covered in my pre-calc book. So essentially you could learn all of your trig from a pre-calc book (which is what I did).

I wouldn't recommend pre-calc in 6 weeks though.
• 40 replies9 threads Junior Member
I know, I don't like it either. But classes are kind of hard to get, and I'd much rather take precalc over the 6 week course than maybe not being able to get Calculus during the Fall and end up having to take Calculus over the 6 week course. Plus, my counselor recommended me to be finished with Calc 2 by next Fall if I wanted to transfer.
• 22635 replies127 threads Senior Member
> I'm just worried like... how deep into trig does precalc cover? I mean if I study say
> chapter 1-5 out of 10 chapters in Trigonemetry is Chapter 2 in Precalc going to be
> touching on concepts of Chapter 9 of Trig?

I would be very surprised if you could find a trig book that has ten chapters.

I have Trigonometry for College Students, Fifth Edition, Karl J. Smith in front of me. Here are the chapters:

1 Circular Functions
2 Graphs of Trigonometric Functions
3 Identities
4 Trigonometric Equations and Inverse Functions
5 Solving Triangles (including vectors)
6 Complex numbers (the trigonometric form of complex numbers)
7 Polar Curves
8 Conic Sections

I also have Precalculus by Lial, Hornsby and Schneider and it covers trig in three chapters over roughly 300 pages. Conic sections (from Smith) is usually a separate topic in precalculus.

I do not think that a 4-credit precalc course will be able to go into trig in great depth. If your school has the regular precalc course and a different course for science and engineering students, then I think that you have less to worry about. I would suggest starting out by getting a hold of a trig or precalc book and looking through it.
If you haven't taken any type of Trig class (including high school), then I suggest you take Trig.

A strong background in Trig will make Calc 1-3 much easier. I hadn't taken trig in 15 years and skipped pre-calc and trig in order to get into Calc 1. Most of my struggles came with having to rebuild my trig knowledge. I was caught a bit by surprise at how much Trig is used in Calculus. You might be able to get through Calc 1 with just basic Trig knowledge, but you won't get through Calc 2 without a good Trig foundation.
I wish I had taken a trig class before the calculus series... I'm always playing catchup when it comes to trig.
• - 1020 replies25 threads Junior Member
Pre Calc is basically Alg II + Trig

Trig is just trig.

Are you weak in one, the other, or both?
• 22635 replies127 threads Senior Member
Does the OP have to take Calc III for a business major?
• 1992 replies55 threads Senior Member
Let me make this clear and then you do whatever you gotta do: STUDY TRIGONOMETRY.

Since you aren't a STEM major, you probably won't go higher than Calc II, but you will be really happy by that time if you've already gotten polar and parametric equations and conic sections under your belt, not to mention trig identities.