ASU MAT 170 – Precalculus

I had spent Summer 2015 working to get into a math mindset. I think my preparations paid off well and at the completion of Session B for Fall 2015 I was very happy with the results. At the start, I was very nervous to be jumping back into College level math and my earlier struggles with Trigonometry haunted me. To have the greatest chance for success I felt starting my math journey with MAT 170 at ASU would help ensure I had a solid foundation. I feel much more comfortable now and am looking forward to tackling MAT 265 – Calculus I.

MAT 170 covers a lot very quickly. To me the course felt like a marathon at a very fast pace. It was very much self paced, but there were deliverables due weekly in addition to a proctored midterm and final. Students needed to complete 105 mastery points which were earned through short quizzes. I figured out that I needed to complete at least two mastery points per day to be finished with a few days time to spare to study for the final and meet the course due dates. You can not get behind in this course or you will be in a world of hurt. Students must work daily completing the mastery points.

I am very visual and the former project manager in me likes to see fancy charts. I made up an Excel spreadsheet and burn down chart to track my progress. It took a few minutes in the beginning to layout what needed to be accomplished, but helped me stay on track. Here is the burn down chart tracking my progress.

MAT170 burndown chart

The course was primarily delivered through Pearson’s MyMathLab site which I was pleased with. There were plenty of practice problems with examples and the site provided immediate feedback which was extremely helpful. In addition to what seemed like an endless supply of practice problems there were lecture videos, presentation decks and an online version of the textbook available. Blackboard and Piazza served for a gradebook and class discussion board.

Topics covered in MAT 170 were:

  • Chapter 1 – Functions and Graphs
    • Basics of Functions and their Graphs
    • More on Functions and their Graphs
    • Combinations of Functions, Composite Functions
    • Inverse Functions
  • Chapter 2 – Polynomials and Rational Functions
    • Complex Numbers
    • Quadratic Functions
    • Polynomial Functions and their Graphs
    • Dividing Polynomials, Remainder and Factor Theorems
    • Rational Functions and their Graphs
  • Chapter 3 – Exponential and Logarithmic Functions
    • Exponential Functions
    • Logarithmic Functions
    • Properties of Logarithms
    • Exponential and Logarithmic Equations
    • Exponential Growth and Decay, Modeling Data
  • Chapter 4 – Trigonometric Functions
    • Angles and Radian Measure
    • Trigonometric Functions, Unit Circle
    • Right Triangle Trigonometry
    • Trigonometric Functions of Any Angle
    • Graphs of Sine and Cosine Functions
    • Graphs of other Trig Functions
    • Inverse Trigonometric Functions
  • Chapter 5 – Analytic Trigonometry
    • Verifying Trigonometric Identities
    • Sum and Difference Formulas
    • Double-Angle, Power Reducing and Half Angle Formulas
    • Trigonometric Equations
  • Chapter 6 – Additional Topics in Trigonometry
    • Law of Sines
    • Law of Cosines
    • Vectors
    • The Dot Product

The midterm consisted of problems from the first three chapters and the final was the last three. 10% of our grade came from practice midterm and final exams. The practice exams took a couple of hours to work through, but the midterm and finals had problems that were very similar.

We were able to use a calculator for the homework and exams although it could not be a fancy CAS (college algebra system) calculator. I used a TI-84 Plus CE. I chose that unit because it had a backlight and was easier to read the screen. Battery life isn’t too bad and charges up pretty quickly. I spent half a day reading through the calculator manual which I think really paid off in the long run.

My professor was very responsive to emails and discussion board posts. On the final exam I made a mistake on one of the problems and the exam docked me a lot of points for missing the negative sign. My instructor gave me partial credit on that problem after I emailed her which was really awesome. I highly recommend keeping in touch with your instructor throughout the course.

On the final we were given all of the Trigonometric formulas needed, but we were not given a unit circle. I spent time memorizing the degree and radian measurements as well as the (x,y) values. I drew that out on a sheet of scratch paper once the exam was underway and referred to it on a number of problems.

One area I didn’t take advantage of was ASU’s Tutoring services. My coach reminded me that those services were available but at that point during the session I didn’t feel a strong need to reach out for help. That will most likely change as I get deeper into Calculus over the next few sessions.

Overall, another positive experience with an ASU Online course. I’m feeling like gaps I had in my knowledge have been filled and the 1000 practice problems and over 100 hours spent have me well prepared.

 

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