Help me get my math on
June 17, 2008 8:09 AM   Subscribe

I need to brush up on my basic college math skills for a course readiness assessment in a week. What are some good resources online and what should I focus on?

I'm going back to school in the fall and have my math course readiness assessment in a week. Unfortunately the last time I took a math class was in high school in 2001, and it was never my strong suit to begin with. I'm thinking that the degree I'm going to pursue (BA in Geography) is going to require basic math skills, and I have to complete at least one college-level math course to graduate anyway.

At this point my math skills are extremely rusty- things like FOIL, order of operations, etc, are all in the dusty nether-reaches of the stuff I forced out of my brain after high school. I know this is really basic stuff I learned in 7th or 8th grade, so it's kind of embarrassing to admit that I couldn't simplify to save my life, but there you have it.

I'm not looking for any advanced placement- I know that I'll need to take a basic college algebra class. That said, my fear is that I'll place below those courses and in the realm of courses that I'll need to pass- and pay for- but not receive college credit for before I can take algebra. I'm confident in my ability to catch up and re-learn this material, but what are some good resources to help me along with that?
posted by baphomet to Education (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
When I took the GMAT I couldn't even remember how to properly do long division, and I was a math minor in college. Now that's embarrassing. The free GMAT prep software has a math review that really helped whip me back into shape. Unfortunately you do have register at to download it, but I think it's probably worth it.
posted by fusinski at 8:37 AM on June 17, 2008

Best answer: At my (large, public) university, the entry level courses require that you have at least some algebra in your background (otherwise, you have to take a developmental math course, along the lines of that non-credit course you are talking about). Here are the topics that we recommend:

order of operations, exponents, fractions, decimals, percents

The above are pretty much expected of all incoming students. Nothing holds a student back more than poor arithmetic manipulation skills. So I would definitely find some drills that practice these areas (unless you already know them). Also I would review the following properties of addition and multiplication which always stymie students:

Distributive, Commutative, Associative

Elementary Algebra Topics:
polynomials (basic factoring), linear and quadratic equations, systems of linear equations, functions (what is one), simple graphing (lines at least), linear inequalities

With the knowledge of these areas, you could get into a credit course at my school no problem. Without some of the elementary algebra, you might get placed into a "transitional" course which starts out with a review and then moves on into College Algebra territory. (but the course moves fast)

If you had more time I would suggest using Schaum's outlines for College Algebra (or Algebra I), but I agree with fusinski that some sort of standardised test prep would work, like that for the math section of the SAT (or the GRE). Does your school have sample exams? You could search for other universities' math placement sample exams as well.

Good Luck! And don't feel bad if you don't place into as high a class as you wanted. I find the students who do best later on were the students that had a solid foundation, and often if you place too high, you miss out on some of that foundation.
posted by bluefly at 10:09 AM on June 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the rundown bluefly, that's exactly what I was looking for. Regarding your last paragraph, I'm kind of split- on the one hand I feel like taking a prep course would be helpful in terms of developing a solid foundation, but on the other I want to finish my degree as quickly and cheaply as possible (I'm coming up fast on 25). I was familiar with the material at one time, but completely lost it due to lack of practice- I think that a good review will bring me up to speed, but if not I'll make the commitment to getting up to speed. I did look at some online prep questions my school has up, and while the questions clearly told me that my skills are rusty, they didn't really offer much in the way of advice on how to improve or what concepts to study- hence this AskMe. So thanks a bunch for the list, I'm basically going to turn it into a checklist and study that shit until I get it.
posted by baphomet at 11:24 AM on June 17, 2008

As for resources, YouTube has an enormous amount of instuctional math videos. Just search "math linear equations", for instance, brings up 166 videos. If you are a visual learner, you are bound to find a couple of tutors on You Tube who can help you with that list of topics.
posted by toastedbeagle at 2:38 PM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

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