Difference Between Algebra II & Trigonometry

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Long staples of high school math, Algebra II and Trigonometry are often required courses for graduation and college entrance. Although both Algebra II and Trigonometry involve solving mathematical problems, Algebra II focuses on solving equations and inequalities while Trigonometry is the study of triangles and how sides are connected to angles.

Algebra II Coursework

Unlike Trigonometry which possesses a more geometric focus, Algebra II emphasizes solving linear equations and inequalities. Coursework covers polynomial, inverse, exponential, logarithmic, quadratic and rational functions. Other topics touched on in an Algebra II course include powers, roots and radicals; graphing square and cube roots and rational functions; inverse and joint variation, fractional expressions, coordinate geometry, complex numbers, matrices and determinants, complex numbers, sequences and series and probability.

Practical Applications for Algebra II

Algebra II finds practical application in science and business. Algebra II functions and concepts are used in statistics and probability. Other career fields that make use of Algebra II include software and computer engineering, medicine, pharmacist, banking and finance and insurance. Algebra II concepts form the basis for insurance actuary and mortality tables. Police and accident investigators use Algebra II to determine the speed of a vehicle. Financial analysts use Algebra II in calculating the rate of return on investments. Meteorologists utilize Algebra II in determining weather patterns.

Trigonometry Coursework

Trigonometry focuses on sides and angles. Major terms include sine, cosine and tangent, right angle, right triangle, slope, arc and radiant. Trigonometry courses cover the Pythagorean theorem, angle measurement; the relationship between sines, chords, cosines and right triangles; radiants and arc length, angles of elevation and depression, determining tangents and slopes, the trigonometry or right triangles and oblique triangles, the law of sines and cosines and figuring the area of a triangle. Geometric, rather than numeric functions are covered such as:

  • sine
  • cosine
  • tangent
  • cotangent
  • secant
  • cosecant

Trigonometry also touches on inverse functions such as arcsine, arccosine, and arctangent.

Practical Applications for Trigonometry

Trigonometry is considered a pure form of mathematics. Unlike Algebra II which is used primarily in probability and statistics, Trigonometry finds use in the sciences. Some of Trigonometry's applications include astronomy, navigation, engineering, physics and geography. Trigonometry is considered a prerequisite for calculus.

Importance of Algebra II

Although Trigonometry has formed the basis for many scientific discoveries, Algebra II is gaining importance. According to a study conducted by Anthony Carnevale and Alice Desrochers, at the Educational Testing Service and reported by The Washington Post, of those individuals who held top-tier jobs, 84 percent had taken Algebra II or a higher class as their last high school math course. Armed with this study, many school districts are requiring Algebra II for graduation.


About the Author

Colleen Bagdon has more than 20 years of experience in marketing. She has written for websites on business, travel and parenting topics and also enjoys writing on music and pop culture. Bagdon has a bachelor's degree from Eastern Washington University with an emphasis in advertising, journalism and business.

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