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January 11th, 2010, 10:34 PM  #1 
Newbie Joined: Dec 2009 Posts: 25 Thanks: 0  wannabe math major
I haven't taken my placement tests yet and I'm afraid I might not start in Calculus. In my college a calculus course is the first thing that counts towards a bachelor's in math. I'm a freshman and for this first semester I don't have any math classes. Its not too late to register for one but would it be better to wait and study to have a better chance of starting in a "higher" class?

January 11th, 2010, 10:57 PM  #2 
Senior Member Joined: Jan 2009 From: Japan Posts: 192 Thanks: 0  Re: wannabe math major
Assuming that another class won't overload you, I'd personally recommend taking the class. The discipline of having to work to someone else's standards can be helpful, particularly if you've never taken college mathematics before. Even many people who did just fine in AP math find Calculus I tough at the university.

January 11th, 2010, 11:40 PM  #3  
Newbie Joined: Dec 2009 Posts: 25 Thanks: 0  Re: wannabe math major Quote:
Quote:
Thanks for the quick response? Are you a professor?  
January 12th, 2010, 12:08 AM  #4 
Senior Member Joined: Jan 2009 From: Japan Posts: 192 Thanks: 0  Re: wannabe math major
I teach parttime, but I still need the Ph.D. to be a professor. Have your classes begun? It can be hard to jump in even a week into the term, but it's fairly important to get started on your math sequence if you intend to major in mathematics. I've seen people start at arithmetic and finish a bachelor's in math. Attitude, more than any 'natural' talent will determine who finishes the program, in my experience.

January 12th, 2010, 07:27 AM  #5  
Newbie Joined: Dec 2009 Posts: 25 Thanks: 0  Re: wannabe math major Quote:
 
January 12th, 2010, 03:20 PM  #6 
Senior Member Joined: Jan 2009 From: Japan Posts: 192 Thanks: 0  Re: wannabe math major
If classes have started already, you're probably better served preparing for next semester.

January 12th, 2010, 06:01 PM  #7  
Newbie Joined: Dec 2009 Posts: 25 Thanks: 0  Re: wannabe math major Quote:
 
January 12th, 2010, 06:31 PM  #8 
Senior Member Joined: Jan 2009 From: Japan Posts: 192 Thanks: 0  Re: wannabe math major
On the polynomials, learn and get good at the "rational root theorem". Wikipedia has a decent summary at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_root_theorem I wouldn't go so far as to call a professor who expects you to be able to solve cubics with irrational roots by hand a sadist, but it would be unusual. On quartics, same thing. Also, get comfortable with using substitutions like the one I demonstrate below: Solve f(x) = x^4  6x^2 + 9 Let x^2 = z, then f(x) = z^2  6z + 9, so that f(x) = (z  3)^2, which has repeated root z = 3, or x = + sqrt(3) You'll see this type come up (sometimes, even naturally, as in differential equations) from time to time, and you'll be expected to know how to use substitutions to factor it. Polynomial fractions just require practice. Some students with good preparation but rusty skills have found books like "Schaum's Outline of College Algebra" helpful. It covers the skills as a practical matter, skipping most of the theory with concentration on techniques and exercises. 

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