ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Preparing for College Math: Advice from a Professor

Updated on April 29, 2013
Dr Jerry Allison profile image

Dr. Jerry Allison is founder of Kairos Advising and Consulting and has worked with businesses and teaching students business for 30+ years.

Every semester my heart breaks over so many students coming into college from high school and being required to study math that should have been already learned. It is unfortunate that most incoming students have to start learning math that should have been learned in high school or, in some cases, junior high. This article is devoted to explaining the process for going through college math and some tips to prepare for it.

The College Math Process

In many schools, the first step that a new student must take before even registering for classes is to take a placement exam. This placement exam will measure how much you know about math, English, and reading comprehension. Some schools may not require a placement exam but just place a student based on high school transcripts. But the number of schools doing this is becoming smaller and smaller. The major reason is that high school math education is not even comparable between high schools, sometimes even in the same area. One school's Algebra I class might be very rigorous while another school might have very lax standards. Thus, most colleges have adopted a placement test to place students in math classes.

The next step is to register the student into the math class where he or she placed. Depending on the score, the student might start in college level math. But more than likely, the student will have to start with developmental classes like Algebra I or II. There are some major problems with this that most students do not realize until too late. First, these developmental classes do not count for college credit so, with regard to a degree, nothing is being accomplished. Second, a student still has to pay for the classes that are meaningless for the degree. Third, if the developmental classes are low enough, the student may not be able to take some other classes outside math (for example computer science) because those classes require basic math. Fourth, by having to complete these developmental classes, the student will spend possibly a year or more just trying to learn high school material. This also assumes the student passes the classes on the first attempt. Many times students have to take a college class like Algebra I multiple times before passing.

Tips from the Professor

Here are some tips for prospective college students still in high school.

  1. Please do not say, "I will never need this." If you are going to college, you will need what you are learning in high school. You may not think math is important. But the people who set the education requirements do.
  2. Learn what you can in high school. This does not mean you have to take every math class and understand calculus before graduating from high school. But it does mean that if you learn it now, you can seriously cut down the time and amount of money needed in college. There are many students that are not good at math and still will need developmental classes. However, some work now in high school will reap rewards later in college.
  3. If you do not do well on the placement exam, try again. Sometimes colleges will allow a student to take a placement exam multiple times before the school semester begins. If this happens, study your weak areas prior to taking the placement exam. The deficiency that shows up on the original exam may not be that serious and can be overcome with a little work.
  4. Before taking the exam the first time, look at several math books and refresh your knowledge. Sometimes that is all it takes to avoid spending an extra year in math.
  5. Be realistic. Do not try to beat the system or fool the test. The placement tests are pretty accurate. Even if you manage to beat the system, you will be placed into a class you may not be able to handle. Failing a college level math class two or three times is not better than starting where you need to and learning the material.


The high school student should not shortcut math education. The student should learn everything possible in math subject to the fullest abilities of the student. Doing this will save a tremendous amount of time and money. The goal of college is to get the degree, not spend years in college.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)