Letter to Precalc Students

    © January 2019, A. Azzolino

Dear Student,

    "It is very difficult to trust strangers," according to Tuvalu Harari. I agree.

    It is also difficult to believe someone who tells you, "You are right now failing the course. You do not have the skills you need to pass the course."

    It is even more difficult to believe "You are right now failing the course. You do not have the skills you need to pass the course" when "everyone" up till now has told you, "You can do anything you wish and be anything you wish in life." So, you might not believe me, but, I am telling you the truth.

    If you failed this first quiz, you will probably fail the course. If you got a D or higher, you probably have the skills to pass the course.

    We go into more detail than in a high school course.  It is also a tough course because we have so much to do so quickly -- usually two sections a day -- and because there is such a variety of material which is needed for immediate recall.  It is a tough course but the results are fairly consistent from semester to semester.  They are also consistent with the grades given by fellow faculty members in physics and chemistry in their tough courses.

    If you earned an A or B in your high school precalc and know how to study you should be fine. If you got a C or D in high school precalc or if it was a few years ago, you probably will need to make an extra effort.

    If you are failing now, you may earn an A, B, or C, if you are serious and are willing to extend extra effort to learn the basics material and techniques you do not know in addition to the new precalculus. You need:

  1. arithmetic and algebraic proficiency -- the ability to do arithmetic and algebra,
  2. arithmetic,algebraic, trig, and precalc background -- the ability to recall topics taught in these courses,
  3. willingness and time to complete homework and study and get help on it if you need help -- remember, 2 hours of homework for every hour of class time,
  4. the ability and willingness to get to class on time and without missing classes -- quizzes are often on a daily basis and at the beginning of class,
  5. the ability to do well on quizzes, tests, and the final exam -- including proofreading your tests before handing them in."
A few of the skills needed for precalc success include:
Recall perfectly a formula or equation
Like the Pythagorean theorem
Like the quadratic formula
Like the distance formula
Like the point-slope form of a line
Like the standard form for a circle
Like a cosine law formula
But NOT resort to using ANY formula
Complete a procedure such as:
Solve a quadratic by using the quadratic formula
Solve a quadratic by completing the square
Solve an equation with radicals
Solve a trig equation which requires use of the quadratic formula.
Solve an equation:
You haven't seen since 8th grade.
You haven't ever seen before.
Quickly understand and use new symbols
Like simplify sin(30°)
Like simplify log2(1/8)
Like simplify e3x ÷ ex
Like simplify sec( /4)
Graph & point-plot
Graph unknown functions without a calculator
Graph or sketch immediately function similar to those you have seen before
Know what a graph will look like simply by reading its equation
Understand and use mathematical vocabulary
Like tangent, hypotenuse, linear coefficient, log
Like secant, reciprocal, asymptote, end behavior
Like discontinuity, rational, rational function.
Show up on time for quizzes tests classes
Hand in homework when it is due
Work alone and with others even though no assignment is to be collected
Use a calculator
To compute
To solve
To graph
To verify
Write mathematics
So a logical progression is shown from step to step,
Such as an expression, which describes a situation which is familiar.
Such as an expression, which describes a situation which is new to you.
Such as an equation, for a situation which is new to you so that you may find an unknown value.
Such as notes, so you can use them to do a problem similar to the one done in class.
And be able to proofread your own work

This is why you need a C or better:
You really need to know the precalc and algebra and trig to use in calculus.
Most colleges do not give you credit for a course in which you have not earned a C or better.
If you do not get a C or better, you lose your scholarship money!

Here are possible choices if you did poorly on the 1st quiz.
  • Stay in the course and as soon as possible spend time in my office doing homework and studying.
  • Stay in the course and as soon as possible get tutoring in the tutoring center or with a professional.
  • Stay in the course and study on your own and see how you do and make a decision later in the semester.
  • Stay in the course and AT WORST fail it and retake it next semester.
    The second grade replaces the first in your overall cumulative average.
  • Stay in the course and if you decide not to continue in the course,
    OFFICIALLY drop the course so you do not earn an F by not completing the course.
    Do this by April 4, the "Last Day to Withdraw" in the course

    Good luck and have a good semester.

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