Are You Ready for College Math?

Are you concerned about your first college math course?  If so, I would expect you to have two questions.  One – do I have the skills I need to be successful in this course?  Two – if I do not have the prerequisite skills, what can I do about it?  I hope to answer both of those questions.

The math you need in order to be ready for your college math course completely depends on the particular course. 

Read the description below about your math class to find if you have the background to be successful in the course:


If you placed into Fundamentals of College Mathematics, there is very little that your professor will assume that you already know, besides maybe the multiplication tables.   The course starts at the very beginning, with addition and subtraction of signed (positive/negative) numbers, and fractions.  HOWEVER, it will move VERY QUICKLY!  It could be called All of Grade School Math and All of Middle School Math, and Two Years of High School Math in Fourteen Weeks.  It is ESSENTIAL that you attend every class, work all of the problem sets that are assigned, and go for help at the Academic Success Center (call 215.951.2799) AS SOON AS you get to problems that you find challenging. 


If you will be taking Pre-Calculus in the fall, there will be many concepts that your professor will assume you already grasp. Signed arithmetic (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing positive and negative numbers and fractions) will be covered in 15 minutes, if at all. Operations on polynomials and rational expressions will probably be covered quickly in class, with the assumption that you are familiar with them already. It will also be assumed that you have solved equations and simplified radicals.

If any of the above sounds challenging, start getting help right away.

You can get free, individual tutoring and group tutoring at the Academic Success Center 215.951.2799.

MATH-100 or MATH-101

Even though College Algebra is given a lower number, it is NOT a lower level course than Pre-Calculus - it is the same level.  Students are told to take one or the other on the basis of their major, not their test scores. So if you are registered for College Algebra, and you feel as if your algebra skills are weak, either come to or call the Academic Success Center find out about getting a tutor.


The background that your professor will assume that you have for Pre-Calculus for Science and Engineering is about the same as the background required for the other Pre-Calculus class (MATH-102). However, this class moves even more quickly, covering topics in greater depth. Please come for help the moment it starts to seem unfamiliar.


If you were told to start off taking Calculus I in the fall, all of the topics I mentioned for Pre-Calculus are topics you must know well.  In addition, you must be comfortable with function notation, trigonometry, advanced algebraic techniques, and the graphs of many basic functions (without using a graphing calculator). If any of these topics have given you trouble in the past, PLEASE come meet with a tutor as soon as possible. 


Students taking Applied Calculus are expected to have a solid background in Algebra. Skills using signed arithmetic (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing positive and negative numbers and fractions) are essential. You must also be comfortable with operations involving polynomials and other algebraic techniques including solving equations, simplifying radicals, and working with fractional and negative exponents. If you any of the above sounds challenging, start getting help right away.