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Subject: Remedial math rss

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Did any of you denizens of Chit-Chat have to take remedial math classes in college? I as because I've gotta take 3 semesters of remedial math classes, since I really bombed the ACT math section. Now, the college I'm going to offers the Compass test, which is basically the ACT, except untimed, on a computer, and you can take just the math section. If I score a 66(the perfect score is 100) on the Compass math section, I'll be able to skip all of the remedial classes and go straight to College Algebra.
However, I really don't know if I should do that. Here's the thing: I've been going over all the sample tests I can find online and I really am foggy on pretty much everything outside of the basic algebra/geometry questions. I miiiight be able to score high enough to test out of "Fundamentals of Math", the first remedial class I'm supposed to take, but I'm so rusty on everything else I can't help but think that it might be best for me to take the remedial classes so I can refresh my memory and sharpen my skills up before I try to tackle College Algebra. Of course, if I do take the remedial classes it'll mean I'll (a) have to pay for 'em out-of-pocket, (b) will need to take summer classes, and (c), will probably end up graduating in 5 years, or maybe even 6.

Oh, and I should probably mention that the 4-year degree I'm hoping to get is a "Biological Sciences" degree, which means that I'm gonna have to take a year of physics courses, a semester of calculus, and a semester of statistics, and of course I've got to take College Algebra before I can do any of those courses.

So, like I said, if any of you all have experience with remedial classes, either as a student or a teacher, please let me know what you think of my situation.
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Scott B
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braveheart101 wrote:
Did any of you denizens of Chit-Chat have to take remedial math classes in college? I as because I've gotta take 3 semesters of remedial math classes, since I really bombed the ACT math section. Now, the college I'm going to offers the Compass test, which is basically the ACT, except untimed, on a computer, and you can take just the math section. If I score a 66(the perfect score is 100) on the Compass math section, I'll be able to skip all of the remedial classes and go straight to College Algebra.
However, I really don't know if I should do that. Here's the thing: I've been going over all the sample tests I can find online and I really am foggy on pretty much everything outside of the basic algebra/geometry questions. I miiiight be able to score high enough to test out of "Fundamentals of Math", the first remedial class I'm supposed to take, but I'm so rusty on everything else I can't help but think that it might be best for me to take the remedial classes so I can refresh my memory and sharpen my skills up before I try to tackle College Algebra. Of course, if I do take the remedial classes it'll mean I'll (a) have to pay for 'em out-of-pocket, (b) will need to take summer classes, and (c), will probably end up graduating in 5 years, or maybe even 6.

Oh, and I should probably mention that the 4-year degree I'm hoping to get is a "Biological Sciences" degree, which means that I'm gonna have to take a year of physics courses, a semester of calculus, and a semester of statistics, and of course I've got to take College Algebra before I can do any of those courses.

So, like I said, if any of you all have experience with remedial classes, either as a student or a teacher, please let me know what you think of my situation.

What do you lose if you take it? Besides some time? Does it cost you? If you pass at a particular level, does that lock you out of taking lower level classes? If not, my advice is to just take the test, then decide.
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I agree with Scott. Take the test -- it will show you where you need the most work, and what you already have down pat. If you can skip one of the remedial classes, that's a savings of time and money.

Since you've chosen a course of study that will require a good deal of math, making sure you fully understand the basics before moving on to the complicated stuff is not a bad thing.

Try not to think of it as "taking remedial courses"; that sounds so negative. Tell yourself you're "getting a refresher on basic principles that will give you a good grounding for future math studies".
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I used to work in the administration for a community college. Very few instructors actually want to teach remedial classes, so they almost always get assigned to junior-level adjunct instructors, who often are not the best teachers. Plus, our researched showed that one of the most common causes for students dropping out was failing remedial classes (sometimes repeatedly).

My recommendation is to take the Compass test. If you can pass the Compass, you probably belong in the college-level class--and it will probably be a better class with more engaged students. You may have to work harder to keep up with the other students, but that's what college is all about. If you do take the remedial class, for one reason or the other, make sure you don't fail. The instructor may not be very good, and the other students will probably be largely disinterested, so it may feel like you're being set up to fail, but you have to persevere.

Regardless of which path you take, it's not going to be easy, and it often feels like college has less of a support network than high school. If you're going to take the Compass, a little test prep never hurt anyone--you're going to be studying for your classes, there's no reason not to study for the test. Once you get into your classes, if you're having trouble with something, ask the instructor after class--they're usually more than willing to help, and it's much easier to explain things one-on-one than in front of a class. Also, practically every college offers tutoring services--sometimes you can get more out of these sessions than you can get out of a lecture.
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Brandon
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braveheart101 wrote:

Oh, and I should probably mention that the 4-year degree I'm hoping to get is a "Biological Sciences" degree, which means that I'm gonna have to take a year of physics courses, a semester of calculus, and a semester of statistics, and of course I've got to take College Algebra before I can do any of those courses.


While I wholeheartedly support anyone going into the sciences, especially biology, be very sure that you become comfortable with math if you're going to go this route. Mathematics are fundamental for any branch of science and, in biology, statistics is especially important. Proper application of statistics will require a sound understanding of algebra at a minimum. If you're going to do anything biochemistry related, you'll be doing a lot of on-the-fly calculations when you're making solutions and such in the lab. If you're working in morphology, you'll obviously need a lot of three-dimensional geometry, which might include algebra, calculus, and linear algebra (dealing with matrices and such). In fact, understanding linear algebra in general is useful since it sneaks up in a lot of different places. If you're picturing biological sciences as wandering around in the woods observing organisms, you will still need an understanding of basic math and statistics for proper experimental design.

Note that I'm not at all trying to scare you off. In fact, I'm confident that anyone can be comfortable with all of the above math. Often, math is taught in such a tedious way that people just say "I don't get it" or "I can't do this" and then stick with that in their heads. All it takes is the right teacher and then everything will click. I took a basic statistics course three different times (once in high school, once in my bachelors, and once in my masters program). It wasn't until the third time that things actually clicked because the teacher taught it in such a way that everything just made sense. I'm just saying that if you want to go into biology, be sure that you become very comfortable with math. Continue to challenge yourself with it until things click. Remember that all these symbols and notations didn't come out of nowhere; they were developed to reason about very intuitive problems. Once you "see through" the notation and get at how to think about the underlying problem, it becomes much easier to work with.

One other, slightly related tip if you're going into biological sciences: get a basic handle on computer programming. Seriously. Biology is becoming all about data analysis. We have too much data and not enough people who know how to analyze it. The sooner you can learn about programming, the better. And note that, even though programming is intimately related to math at its core, it's really nothing like "math" as you're taught it at school. I think it's fun as hell.

In any case, I would be happy to answer any questions you have on going the biology route. Feel free to shoot me a message whenever...
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Yeah, I definitely need to get more comfortable with math. Hope I can - I've never been able to really do it. I really can't afford to not get better at it. I'm going with biology simply because it's one of the least mathematically intensive STEM degrees. Biology is the only real STEM option I have. I wanted to become an astrophysicist, but I realized several years back that that's, realistically, an impossibility. I just don't have the brains or the aptitude. All the other subjects I'm passionate about aren't ones worth getting degrees in, since they're all very liberal-arts based. So, yeah. It's a biology degree or no degree for me.
Actually, depending on how well things go with the Compass test/my remedial courses, I may just drop out and concentrate on working. I'll definitely be dropping out if I fail one of my remedial classes. Like I said, a biology degree is the only degree that I should bother pursuing, and if I can't handle remedial math I've got no place pursuing a STEM degree.
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I had a great understanding of all things math until I went to college.

I hope you will have far better luck than I.
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For all the reasons mentioned above - your and others - the developmental courses are not where you want to be. Get in to the College Algebra as quickly as possible. There will be other people in that class in a similar situation to yours; you'll figure out which ones are there to work, and you'll work your ass off with them as much as possible. Good luck, and pm me if you ever feel the need; I've taught Math all over the place, including developmental, and lots of College Algebra.
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Maybe this is an overreaction, but the general feeling I'm getting is that, if I have to take remedial classes, I should probably just forget the whole college thing? I'm not the most rational of people - I still hate myself for things I did when I was 3 - so I'm probably just misinterpreting/overreacting.

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braveheart101 wrote:
Maybe this is an overreaction, but the general feeling I'm getting is that, if I have to take remedial classes, I should probably just forget the whole college thing? I'm not the most rational of people - I still hate myself for things I did when I was 3 - so I'm probably just misinterpreting/overreacting.



You should go to college. In addition to the likely increase in earnings, I read a summary of a study today that shows college educated men live an average of 80 years and non-college educated live to be 67.

If you give up your dream you will forever regret it. I'm rooting for you.
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Orangemoose wrote:
braveheart101 wrote:
Maybe this is an overreaction, but the general feeling I'm getting is that, if I have to take remedial classes, I should probably just forget the whole college thing? I'm not the most rational of people - I still hate myself for things I did when I was 3 - so I'm probably just misinterpreting/overreacting.



You should go to college. In addition to the likely increase in earnings, I read a summary of a study today that shows college educated men live an average of 80 years and non-college educated live to be 67.

If you give up your dream you will forever regret it. I'm rooting for you.

This. Don't give up, but also don't be too afraid to change course. I don't know how hold you are, but what seems interesting now, may not hold once you get into the proverbial nuts and bolts of it.

I was a math and physics tutor (that's mostly how I worked my way through college) and I saw a lot of people struggling. Some had just graduated from high school, after basically goofing off for 4 years and never taking it seriously, and really just needed a little boost to catch up. Others where 30 or 40+ year olds who were returning to school for the first time in 20 years and really struggling because they hadn't done anything harder than balance in checkbook in 20 years.

The one consistent thing I saw was that the ones who really focused and worked at it were the ones who got through. Not always with flying colors, and often with many tears of frustration, and hours of hard work, but they did it. I remember being so proud getting several graduation invitations in the mail from some of my former 'students', many of whom were at least a decade older than me.

FWIW, I worked and paid my own way through college (well, me and my now wife), and I am the first person in my family to ever graduate college. I have one cousin who graduated a few years ago, but that's the closest family member to do so. BS - Aerospace Engineering '96. (Yes, I really am a rocket scientist, at least by education.)

Go for it. Find your school's tutoring lab. Make friends in your classes and start a study group. Don't be afraid to ask questions, both in class, and after class in your instructors' office hours. Study hard, study smart, graduate!!

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braveheart101 wrote:
Maybe this is an overreaction, but the general feeling I'm getting is that, if I have to take remedial classes, I should probably just forget the whole college thing? I'm not the most rational of people - I still hate myself for things I did when I was 3 - so I'm probably just misinterpreting/overreacting.



If you want to get into the biological science and do well, you should take the test and if needed take the remedial courses. Plus, taking the remedial courses will be far better than struggling through physics and other courses that require an understanding of higher math.

A second option is to take the math courses at a Junior college or community college at night/weekends and put off starting college next year when you will be able to test out of the lower math classes you have already taken.
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charlieturtle wrote:

A second option is to take the math courses at a Junior college or community college at night/weekends and put off starting college next year when you will be able to test out of the lower math classes you have already taken.


This is pretty good advice. If time is not as much an object as money, then I would recommend researching whether you can take courses at a community college and transfer the credits to your university. I spent two years in a community college getting my associate's degree and was only able to transfer half the credits toward my bachelor's, but those two years of community college tuition cost less than 1/6th of what the one year of university would have cost me.
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braveheart101 wrote:
Maybe this is an overreaction, but the general feeling I'm getting is that, if I have to take remedial classes, I should probably just forget the whole college thing?

If you study hard you can get through maths. There's an objectively right answer to every question, so it's just a question of putting in the hours. The thing with maths is that there are many different flavours (algebra, calculus, stats, discrete, etc) and you will be good at some of them and bad at others. For a biology course you probably dealing with algebra and stats mostly, which are the intuitive ones. Take the remedial course (or get a high school textbook and work through it) and you should be OK. When I did my maths degree the first few classes reviewed the remedial stuff anyway, and they will assume that bio students are bad at maths and pitch the classes accordingly.

Also, it is OK to have your ups and downs. Get to know the course coordinator, ask for more time on assignments if you need them, and so forth. Get a grad student to tutor you if you need help. Universities have a huge support infrastructure designed to make you pass. They want you to pass so you can keep studying and keep paying and boost their numbers! So you just have to give them an excuse to pass you, and that means engaging with the system when things get tough. The only way you can fail is if you walk away without asking for help.
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First piece of advice: while it's good to solicit advice, it's important to make up your own mind on the basis of a sound, careful analysis of the pros and cons.

I would also broadly agree with those who suggest finding some way to avoid three developmental math courses. They're going to cost you and not earn credit, and those are two pretty big hurdles, practically and psychologically. Shaving off one or two of those courses would make a big difference, I'd think.

You may know more than you think, and you may be motivated enough to acquire the skills on your own or with the help of a tutor or people in the same boat as you.

Take Compass; it won't hurt (much), and it will provide some analysis of strengths and weaknesses even if it doesn't yield the score you're hoping for. Do some prep for it. At least become familiar with the testing format, but also try to focus as time permits on brushing up on the underlying skills.

I'm not being critical, but I can't quite tell what it is about biology/STEM that appeals to you. There are other collegiate options out there that may be worth considering and a better match to your current skills (and you seem like someone who has a lot of them). I followed two dreams--journalism (got a bachelor's) and teaching (got a master's) and ended up making a decent living working in related areas instead for the most part.

In any case and event, good luck. I'm pulling for you.
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I had a whole post planned, but I find many have already made very similar comments.

Landstander wrote:
About a major, though - that is far trickier to give good advice. There are plenty of technical type fields that don't require as much math; chemistry and biology are two examples that I have some experience with (n.b. I have degrees in physics and elect. eng., so...). Of course, most of the humanities and arts won't have too strenuous math requirements.


I wrote that back when you brought this up last year or so. You've basically chosen a biology path, but I think maybe for the wrong reason. I know you've got a low opinion of the chances of finding a job with a liberal arts education, but I think you'll like it WAY better. And if you like it better, you'll do better. I imagine, based on what little I know about you, that you would thrive in a very creative field, such as graphic design. You can also try to direct your education along a specific path, such as 3-d modeler if you want. Yes, you will need to take math. The problem is, you've built it up too much in your mind. You're a human, you have the same basic cognitive abilities as most other humans, so you can do the math. You might want to make sure you take it at the right time, for example, a lighter semester, or whatever. To go to college and get the most out of it, you must strive to set yourself up to succeed. That can be tough to plan for. I don't know you well enough to know how comfortable you are asking for help (this is essentially why I did SHITE in college(s)), but you can always ask here. I am more than willing to do some long distance tutoring (and all I'd ask is for some painting tips... whistle ). Anyway, there's no reason to chuck it all now - take the test, and decide after that. My single most important piece of advice is - don't overload yourself. At least for me, I made myself MISERABLE in college because I always tried to take on too much, I couldn't manage my time right, and I failed.

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braveheart101 wrote:
Maybe this is an overreaction, but the general feeling I'm getting is that, if I have to take remedial classes, I should probably just forget the whole college thing? I'm not the most rational of people - I still hate myself for things I did when I was 3 - so I'm probably just misinterpreting/overreacting.


Do it anyway. I'm done with my Associates next Thursday, and I can't even begin to express what that will mean to me, or what I went through to get it. It was hard. It sucked. I had to retake a bunch of Math classes over again even to get back to where I was since I originally went to school to be a Math teacher, and I figured I was good to go in that area.

Calc. I will be difficult, but doable. Physics will also be hard. If you develop the proper habits to get through those classes, you honestly should be set for anything else. Find out the good teachers or their styles ahead of time. Ask fellow students if need be. I'm taking Calc. II in the summer and the average test for this teacher is 81%, 90%, and 80%. That's Calc. II in the Summer! I know another teacher who's averages are at best in the 70's with a number in the 60's for the same subject and that's with a full regular term. You will, by default, have one or more terrible teachers. Stick with it anyway.
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Well, I'm going to head in on the 25th to take the Compass. I'm viewing this one as more of a trial run, to get a feel for the test. Thankfully the Compass is offered all year round, so I've got ~4 months of chances to take it until my 2nd semester starts.
Anyways, hopefully the test on the 25th will give me a good idea of where I'm weak. Once I know that I can take advantage of sites like Khan Academy to brush up/rebuild my skills. With a little luck and a lot of hard work over the coming months, I'm hopeful that I can test out of at least the "Fundamentals of Math" course.
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braveheart101 wrote:
Maybe this is an overreaction, but the general feeling I'm getting is that, if I have to take remedial classes, I should probably just forget the whole college thing?


If you're having trouble learning math -- or more specifically, doing well in math courses -- it's very likely that you just haven't found the right way to learn yet. I've been a math tutor for people having serious trouble in mathematics courses, and many of them were helped by me just explaining it in a different way from their professor and their book. Math is not a door you can only get through if you're born with a set of keys.


And trust me, there are lots of people in the real world who have passed college-level courses who probably couldn't pass a test if their life depended on it today; learning math is only partly about learning the actual formulas and equations, and much more about learning how to approach problems in a methodological way by applying the right rules to the right information.

In other words, play lots of board games.
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I've taught college physics courses. So I strongly advice you to take the remedial math courses and to put your heart and soul into them. You will need those math skills. One of the saddest tings I had to do was to explain to students who had put off taking a required physics course till the last semester before they were scheduled to graduate that they simply did not have the math skills to do the coursework. Don't let yourself get in tht situation.

EDIT:
Use Kahn Academy now. I think you'll still need the classes, but this will make passing them much easier.

https://www.khanacademy.org/
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Re: Remedial math "and then? as well while we're at it..."
Y`all should study under "Weird Al" about "correckoning" YOUR 'english' and that's around here somewhere, if another could 'oblige'?
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The key to learning university math is lots of extra practice. I got through calc I, calc II, calc III and differential equations I and the key was not only doing the homework, but doing lots of extra problems to get the mechanisms of doing the problems into my head. Start with simple problems, then work your way up.
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I think I just hit a gold mine - I did some asking around at my college and I got my hands on PDFs of questions (with detailed explanations of the answers) from previous Compass tests. Only got them today but I've definitely got a good feeling for what to expect. Let's just say I'm gonna need to do a good deal of work before I can hope to test out of more than the first remedial class. However, it's 100% doable - just gotta devote a good hour or so a day to practice for the next couple of months. I'll be sure to keep you guys posted on my progress!
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