How to Prepare for Precalculus

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Precalculus, also known as Algebra 3, is a common American mathematical course taught to middle and high school students. In precalculus classes, basic algebraic principles are expanded to prepare students for advanced and college preparatory calculus and trigonometry. Because precalculus expands on a previous understanding of mathematical concepts, preparing for coursework by reviewing Algebra 1 and 2 concepts helps the student be more prepared for precalculus study.

    Take an online diagnostic test that covers Algebra 1 and 2 concepts to determine what areas you need to focus on in your preparation. There are a number of free tests available online that emphasize different concepts (see Reference 2).

    Contact your teacher or professor to determine what sort of concepts will be covered in your precalculus class. Most teachers should be able to provide you with a syllabus for coursework that will help you better prepare for the class. If a syllabus is not available to you, most precalculus courses cover the following topics: sets, real and complex numbers, introduction to trigonometry, polynomial and rational functions, vectors, the binomial theory, limits, and matrices.

    Obtain Algebra 1 and 2 review materials from previous classes or purchase a textbook or guide that covers these topics. Identify concepts in Step 2 that have been covered in your Algebra 1 and 2 materials. Focus on these concepts, as well as the subjects you consider to be your weaknesses from the diagnostic test in Step 1. Read about them and do practice problems until you have answered the majority of the questions in your review materials correctly and you feel secure in your knowledge of these concepts.

    Purchase materials you may need for precalculus before your first day of class. Most precalculus classes require students to have graph paper and a graphing calculator, though your teacher or professor can provide more specifics about the materials you will need, as well as provide recommendations for graphing calculators. Purchase any textbooks your teacher requires you to have for the course before the first day of class as well.

    Familiarize yourself will all the materials you will be using in the course. Review the instruction manual of the graphing calculator so you know how to properly use it to compute sets, functions, sines and cosines and other more complex mathematical concepts. Review the table of contents of the textbook you will be using for the course. Identify any concepts that seem foreign to you and review them in your Algebra 1 and 2 materials.

    Things You'll Need

    • Algebra 1 and 2 review materials
    • Calculator
    • Pencil
    • Graph paper
    • Computer with Internet access

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