This simple chart demonstrates when your math sequence can start generating college credit alongside high school credit.
Typical Math Progression
- Arithmetic (grades k-8)
- Pre Algebra (grades 6-9)
- Algebra 1 (grades 8-10)
- Geometry (grades 9-10)*
- Algebra 2 (grades 10-12)
- Trigonometry / Pre-Calculus (grades 10-12)
- Calculus (grades 10-12)
*geometry may fit between Algebra 1 and 2, after Algebra 2, inside the Algebra course sequence, or omitted entirely depending on your state or curriculum. Each math curriculum publisher handles this subject slightly differently.
Duplication of Time & Effort
We often think of college classes as significantly harder or more advanced than high school classes, but in the math sequence, once your teen hits a certain level, they are already doing the same math that they’ll do in college. Since high school math is never worth college credit, teens often have to retake a subject they’ve already learned. This duplicates their time, effort, and money! If you want streamline the process, you can use college level math in high school when they hit that point in the typical math sequence.
The following sequence shows when to expect overlap of content.
More About Each Path
Non-STEM 4-year degree: Students earning a 4-year degree in a major that is not Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM), often do not have math requirements in their major. The “general education” requirement will have some type of math requirement, but you can shop around for low math colleges if desired. One college may allow “any 100 level” math to suffice, while others may require College Algebra as their minimum. The college’s “general education” requirement will be the minimum for everyone in every major, so non-STEM majors could still have a high general education math if you attend a “mathy” college. Always look at a target college’s “general education” requirements. Since most colleges will only require 1 general education math class, you can find your target college math requirement on the chart above and see how much math is required to get there. The number usually indicates level of difficulty. For instance, MATH105 should be easier than MATH205, but this is more of a guideline than a rule.
STEM 4-year degree: Students earning a 4-year degree in a STEM major (or business) will have math requirements well beyond the “general education” core and many will serve as prerequisites for other classes. (example: Calculus 1 credit may be a prerequisite or corequisite to registering for General Physics) The scope of high school math will most certainly overlap with college level, especially for students with strength in math. A STEM major’s math usually “starts” at Calculus 1, so lower maths like Precalculus, may not “count” towards their degree, but this is low-hanging fruit and will still be part of their high school sequence, so always grab the low-hanging fruit! I’ve met hundreds of people who changed majors or changed colleges and ended up getting to use those credits, so it’s never a bad idea to have extra college-level math credit “in the bank.”
Other: If your student is looking at a short-term training, 2 year degree, license, apprenticeship, vocational program, or something other than a 4-year degree, their math requirements may look very different from the chart above! Many occupations require specialized math. When you notice a different suggested course of study, you’ll want to pay attention to suggested sequence. A student preparing to be a welder or pipefitter needs solid geometry skills, a pre-nursing student needs solid metric and conversion skills, other students may benefit from personal finance or business math. The more you know about their target occupation, the better prepared you’ll be at guiding them. In another scenario, a teen who attends cosmetology school may not have a math requirement at all, but bookkeeping and business math are excellent math choices for a student who might one day open a salon of their own.
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