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Which General Education Mathematics Course Should I Take?

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By Bill Owen
Program Director for Mathematics, American Public University

Why is the mathematics course selection so difficult?

That’s a tough question for every new student in any university. It’s difficult because every student brings a different background and experience with mathematics.

For example:

  • Some students didn’t take many math courses in high school so they don’t have the proper foundation once at the college level.
  • Some students have forgotten the math they learned in high school. Math skills are quickly forgotten when they aren’t used.
  • Other students are very confident in their math capabilities, so they jump right into one of the more advanced courses. Although some are successful this way, most of these over-confident students are disappointed when they discover that they are struggling to master college-level math.
  • Some students have been away from school for an extended time. They may have been working or in the military and not needed mathematics in their jobs. They may just need a good math review.
  • Some students are just nervous about taking a college math course, so they put off taking any math courses — especially one that is online.

What are the general requirements for math?

The general education (or gen ed for short) requirement is that you must successfully complete three credit hours of mathematics at American Public University. We offer four courses that will satisfy this requirement: Math 110 (College Algebra), Math 111 (College Trigonometry), Math 125 (Math for Liberal Arts), or Math 225 (Calculus I). These courses are all three credit hours and they will guide you to the quantitative skills you will need in your degree program and for your gen ed credit requirement.

Still confused? If you still don’t know which one to select then relax, there is help available:

  • You can help yourself by honestly assessing your ability to work with numbers and mathematics. If you are not fully comfortable with math or you’ve been away from it for years, you may want to take one of the preparatory math courses before you register for one of the gen ed math courses. For instance, we offer Math 100 (Pre-Algebra) and Math 101 (Introduction to Algebra) which are both good courses that would prepare you for your gen ed math courses.
  • Your student advisors can assist you as you enter the university. You will need to contact them and discuss your abilities and your math skills. They have the knowledge and experience to guide you to a course that will challenge you to learn, but won’t overwhelm you by being beyond your abilities.
  • Your family, friends, co-workers, supervisors, other students and professors can also help you decide. Talk to the people you know and trust. They may have some excellent advice or guidance that will help you decide which course to take first.
  • The Mathematics Readiness Assessment will give you a recommendation on which course to take. That assessment is part of the COLL100 course at American Public University that you will take as your first university course. The math assessment has been constructed to guide you in selecting the appropriate course based on your personal mathematics skills. Students who followed those recommendations have been successful in their math courses.

What if you’re not ready for the courses?

The prudent course for you is take one of the preparatory math courses. Math 100 or Math 101 may be your best starting point for your college level math education.

  • Math 100 is a “Pre-Algebra” course and it covers the concepts of solving basic algebraic equations that involve integers, fractions, decimals and percents. It also introduces the concepts of polynomials and graphing equations. Emphasis is on the fundamentals of pre-algebra to ease the transition into college level algebra courses.
  • Math 101 is an “Introduction to College Algebra” and this course concentrates on a review of mathematics, the language of algebra, equations, inequalities, polynomials, factoring, and rational expressions.

You will need the skills learned in those courses in order to be successful in the gen ed math classes. Both of those courses are three credit hours and would help you learn (or relearn) some of the basic math skills. These two courses are designed to prepare you for success in your gen ed math courses when you take them; and that might keep your grade point average up where you want it. Math 100 and 101 can be counted as elective credit, but won’t satisfy the requirement for your Gen Ed math credit.

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